On Sunday, January 31, 2016, my mom thought she was coming down with a cold. By Wednesday, she was feeling bad enough that she thought it must be the flu. She saw her doctor who ran some tests for strep and the flu and told her to call if she started to feel worse. By Thursday, my mom, who was not a complainer, was saying that her throat was hurting constantly. She had a fever and had mentioned having the chills. Some of the last texts she sent me were: “I’m very tired” and “Don’t dare cough.” “Hope you feel better,” I wrote back.
On Friday morning, my dad called to tell me my mom had fallen down the stairs. He thought she was ok but her blood pressure was extremely low. He was going to take her to the hospital. It was snowing and I scrambled around calling friends to find someone to watch the kids who were home from school. I then got in my car to make the two hour drive to the hospital in Albany. What I did not know at the time was that I was driving to the hospital to watch my mom die.
It turns out that my mom did have the flu and bacterial pneumonia but it was sepsis, her body’s response to these infections, that robbed her of her life.
That whole day was a blur. Nurses. Doctors. My dad, my cousin, and uncle. My mom, looking uncomfortable and asking for a drink of water. Phone calls to check on the kids. I was worried, wondering why my mom did not seem to be feeling better with IV medications. Why was she having trouble breathing? Why did it seem to be getting worse? Then there were more doctors and nurses, but now with concerned expressions, and there was my mom, now looking scared.
After being at the hospital for only a few hours, my mom was moved to the ICU. It was not long before the doctor told us that her body was not responding to any of the broad spectrum antibiotics and that her organs were starting to fail. We were told to call family members as soon as possible. And then, the unthinkable. My mom passed away in the early morning hours of February 6, 2016. By far, the worst day of my life. I can still hear the shock and sorrow in my friends’ voices as I try to explain what happened over the phone. Utter disbelief. I thought to myself….wait! What?! How could this be? How can they not help her with modern medicine? The whole experience was surreal. I kept thinking this can’t really be happening. But it was.
I was blindsided by sepsis. We all were. The scary part is that I had heard of sepsis before. I had heard of people dying from sepsis and had even talked with my mom about it. Despite that, neither of us knew the warning signs and neither of us suspected sepsis in her case. It happened too fast. Would the outcome have been different if my mom had gone to the hospital earlier? We will never know for sure, but the fact that it might have made a difference will haunt me for the rest of my life.
I am sharing my mom’s story to try to help others recognize sepsis before it’s too late. I have also started the #Sepsispieface Challenge to raise awareness about sepsis. I have challenged some friends and family members to take a pie in the face, and post it on Facebook to help spread the word that we should all learn the warning signs of sepsis. I have encouraged participation by kids because my mom adored spending time with her grandchildren and loved nothing more than to see them laugh. The sepsis pie face challenge videos so far have been hilarious. While there is nothing funny about sepsis, I can’t think of a better way to honor my mom than to make people smile.
Aside from my personal nominations, I would like to challenge anyone who has been touched or affected by sepsis to take the sepsis pie face challenge and nominate others to help our cause and continue to spread the word.
To accept the challenge, please copy and paste this paragraph and the paragraphs below with your nominations and video to your Facebook feed and share through social media with the hashtag #sepsispieface. Together, we can make a difference and start saving lives. For more information about sepsis, please click here.
I accept the #Sepsispieface Challenge and will take a pie in the face to raise awareness of sepsis and help save lives. Sepsis is the body’s toxic response to an infection and is a medical emergency. More than 258,000 Americans die of sepsis each year but many people have never heard of sepsis and do not know the warning signs. Early detection is the key to saving lives.
Please learn the Symptoms of Sepsis:
S – Shivering, fever or very cold
E – Extreme pain or general discomfort (“worst ever”)
P – Pale or discolored skin
S – Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused
I – “I feel like I might die”
S – Short of breath
Watch for a combination of these symptoms. If you suspect sepsis, seek emergency medical care immediately and say, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”
You have 48 hours to complete this challenge or make a donation to Sepsis Alliance https://donate.sepsisalliance.org/checkout/donation?eid=31711
Please help spread the word and save lives. Sepsis is the silent killer.
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