Sepsis is the most common pathway to death following
an infection. It can be avoided.
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Pat*, athelete, survived sepsis at the age of 32
My illness started on 20 May 2004. I felt great that day, but in the evening suddenly developed a fever and chills.
The fever continued to rise during the night to over 40°C (104°F) and I was delirious. The next morning I had blue patches on my face and arms, which turned out to be dermatorrhagia.
Arrival at the intensive care unit
The emergency care doctor sent me directly to the intensive care unit of the county hospital, where a patient had died four months earlier of pneumococcus sepsis. The doctors, suspecting the same with me, induced an artificial coma and transferred me right away by helicopter to a university hospital.
By the time I arrived, my liver, lungs, and kidneys had stopped functioning, and I was put on dialysis. The doctors were working to help me survive the next 72 hours. Tests confirmed that I had contracted pneumococci. I had lost my spleen following a car accident when I was seven, so my body was missing a critical immune function.
I lost 15kg (33 pounds), had multiple organ failure, and the pressure on my brain increased to the point that I needed an operation in another hospital, and then two fingers had to be amputated – all while I was in coma. Our son was just two weeks old. My wife stayed with me every day. She’s a nurse, so she understood how critical the situation was. After five weeks my organs had stabilized to the point that I could be woken up on 22 June 2004, the day after our first wedding anniversary.
My body was wracked with pain
I was unable to move, and my body was wracked with pain. My muscles had completely atrophied. It took all the energy I had just to whisper. After a few days the nurses helped me to sit, and it was pure torture. I became very moody and demanding, and was awful to the nurses and my beautiful wife, something I deeply regret today. But people are not themselves in that kind of condition.
Coming back to life
In rehab I had to learn to do everything again: eat, drink, wash myself, brush my teeth, get dressed, and walk. A very kind nurse in the hospital had told me I should try very hard to do more than what was required of me in rehab. He saw that I was a fighter. But it was harder than I expected, and the pain and muscle cramps were severe – it required sheer willpower to make progress. That helped me during follow-up treatment as well.
What stays in my mind today is that with just three vaccines – for pneumococci, meningococcal, and Haemophilus influenza, I would probably have never developed sepsis. Most doctors don’t even know that. That has to change.
Pneumococcus sepsis due to the loss of the spleen following a car accident as a teenager, with multiple organ failure, later followed by critical illness polyneuropathy.
* name changed
Over the past year we've been collecting the questions we receive most frequently about sepsis. Please share this information with your friends and family. Don’t see your question on the list? Get in touch with us, and we’ll do our best to help.
Thea* survived sepsis at the age of 7 months
Today, Thea is approaching her fourth birthday. She has an identical twin and two other young sisters.
Amelie*, mother, survived sepsis at the age of 35
Our third son was born in May 2009. Two weeks after giving birth, I collapsed with a seizure.
Niklas survived sepsis at the age of 16
My name is Niklas. I'm 16 years old, and am in my third year of college preparatory school in Switzerland. Four years ago, my life changed.
Hans, businessman, survived sepsis, 60 years old
In 2003, a tumor was found in my mouth. After several extensive examinations, I had surgery in March.