Faith · Sepsis Recovery Girl

When the doctor says, “You know, you almost died.”

Photo: Marcello Semboli (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: Marcello Semboli (Creative Commons Flickr)

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9)

Three weeks ago to the day I stumbled into the emergency room. I thought I was having an allergic reaction to an antibiotic I’d started taking for a urinary tract infection. Little did I know that the infection had crossed into the bloodstream and had become septic.

At once I was put into a wheelchair, and before the triage nurse had finished her questions, I was in a room, being helped into a hospital gown with a team of physicians hovering around.

I was impressed. Ten o’clock on a Saturday morning was obviously the right time to come to the ER. Like Disneyland on a Wednesday—no crowds.

“Laura,” the head ER physician said to me, “you are very sick.”

“Oh,” I said, “okay.”

How else could I reply? I wasn’t in pain and I didn’t feel sick. Other than the fact that I was shaking and laboring to breathe, even with an oxygen mask.

“I don’t think you realize how sick you really are,” he added.

That’s me, Miss Shake-It-Off. The one who doesn’t get sick. The one with the high pain tolerance who just keeps going.

Nobody mentioned that my blood pressure was 40/10, and that I was going into shock. I do remember the doctor carefully explaining that I needed to be sedated, intubated, and put on a ventilator. Horrific-sounding procedures that never registered as scary.

“Oh,” I said, “okay.”

After that I imagine things happened very fast, though I didn’t know it. The battle to raise my blood pressure was on. My son Nathan, who basically lived at the hospital and followed the doctors whenever they went into my room (at times up to 14 people!), tells me I was given three different blood pressure medications—everything they had—and loaded up with antibiotics. Then came the waiting game, as the doctors had done all they could. For two days I was the most critical patient in ICU.

Talk about surreal.

God is gracious, and I am a scrappy fighter. I came out of sedation Monday morning, still on the ventilator but feeling okay—in other words, not sick. On Tuesday I began breathing on my own. Only once during my hospitalization was I truly scared, when they drained a liter of fluid from my right lung (doctors get excited about the strangest things). But that’s because all I could think about was the episode of Downton Abbey where the poor farmer has fluid drained from around his heart. Yes, I have an over-active imagination and a memory that retains images.

“I only write historical fiction,” I remember telling myself. “Thank God I do not live it.”

Thank God indeed. Many people were praying for me, including some of you. I thank you sincerely.

And the news isn’t all bad. Because my white blood cell count was high, the doctors ordered an analysis. Everything looked normal under the microscope, hooray. In other words, no evidence of cancer. (I was treated for Hodgkins lymphoma 16 years ago.) And hey, I lost 17 pounds!

The doctors are encouraged and the numbers look very good. My kidneys and my liver are functioning normally, and I am well on my way to recovery. But for Miss Shake-It-Off the road to full strength has been irritatingly slow. The rule of thumb is seven days for every day in ICU (5 times 7 is 35) plus three days for every day in the regular hospital (5 times 3 is 15). So it will be a while. I am sleeping on the downstairs sofa, using a walker to access the bathroom and kitchen. I doubt I’ll be able to return to school this year for more than just visits.

As for finishing my novel—those three elusive final chapters!—I hope to start working in June.

Thank you for your prayers and love. I tell my students that life is an adventure when we walk with God, and isn’t that the truth?

48 thoughts on “When the doctor says, “You know, you almost died.”

  1. Wow! I thank the Lord you didn’t die! (your comments about doctors are funny since, as one myself, those “details” you mentioned would also make me excited!) I’ll pray for a speedy recovery!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joanna, I owe my life to God’s grace and also to people like you, dedicated medical professionals who labor tirelessly. Thank you.

      And yes, those doctors were absolutely jubilant about draining that much fluid from my lungs.

      The emotional strain of working in ICU must be enormous, especially since not every crisis turns out well. These physicians kindly allowed my husband and sons to tail the interns as they made their rounds and to listen to the detailed discussion of my case. Nathan, who is studying to become a speech language pathologist, was so impressed by them that he is rethinking his decision to work solely with young students. “Maybe I would enjoy working in a hospital setting,” he said.

      On a related topic, I’m thinking you might enjoy this talk given by Dr Gary Ott, a heart surgeon who is an elder at our church. Is There Really Conflict Between Science and Faith?

      Thank you for your prayers!

      Like

    1. I am well on my way to health, Crystal, just weak. The doctors were very encouraged by my progress. “You were healthy to begin with,” they said, “and you aren’t obese.”

      That was something to hear. I am overweight, although less so than before. 🙂

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    1. My husband, three sons, and daughter-in-law basically spent every afternoon and evening in the ICU waiting room. In the early days, when I was living hour to hour, Nathan took it upon himself to make sure that there would always be a member of the family at the hospital. He slept on chairs in a conference room, I think.

      It’s always scarier to be the family than it is to be the patient. I am doing very well and am trying to take it slow.

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  2. All I can say is WOW! God is faithful. You trusted. He delivered. I have seen so many twists and turns this year so I know what your son experienced as well. I am praising God for your recovery. Give yourself permission to take it slow and do what is right for your body in the long run. Will keep you in my prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The truly odd thing is that either I am dense, or that I lived completely in the moment and did not worry. Because I wasn’t scared, save for the one procedure I described which was over fairly quickly.

      Thank you for your prayers. Much praise around here for my improving strength.

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  3. Gosh Laura, I had no idea you were THAT sick! I feel terrible for not praying more fervently. ha. I am kidding, because I know God knew just how to interpret it. I am truly happy for the good news on the healing end of things. Continue on the careful path of growing strong now, okay? Love you, Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, Karen, you are in good company. I had no idea I was that sick. 🙂

      Thank you for praying. You are exactly right, God knew how to apply your prayers. And I attempting to be prudent. For instance, I would like to go to church tomorrow, but there has been flu going around so I won’t risk it.

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  4. I am so very grateful that you are still with us. I pray your full recovery will be a time of blessing not frustration. :Let people do things for you – it helps them get over the fear of losing you and reminds you that you are loved.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Letting others do thing for me, what a concept. I am usually on the “doing” end of things.

      You are right, I do have many reminders that I am loved, both at school and at church. Families are lining up to bring dinners and colleagues have stepped in to make up for my absence at school. I am rather amazed at the outpouring of affection I’ve received. Thank you, Jan, for praying for me.

      Like

    1. Thank you, Melinda, for your prayers. Life is a gift and so very fragile. I am thankful that this was not my time to go home. And sobered to think that because my life was spared, my best years are ahead of me.

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  5. Praise God! So happy to hear all the positives and that you came through such a scare on the road to recovery! I’m so glad you went to the hospital when you did and that the doctors and medical team worked tirelessly to help you get better! Take it easy and enjoy a lot of lovely reads while you mend! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Laura, news of your recovery is wonderful to hear. Please try to take it easy as you gain your strength. I know the temptation is there to take advantage of moments when you feel good. But your body will tell you when it’s ready.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My fear is that you’ll hurry back to work because your students need you. Next year’s students need you, too, and you won’t be there if you relapse.

    Please, please, please take all the time you need to recuperate.

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  8. Laura, I just found this blog and as you know I’m so grateful that you didn’t leave us, and not just because I wanted to read the end of the story. LOL You are a beautiful, Christian woman and give so much to others. Folks like you need prayerful protection because you know who would like to snuff you out. I’ll be happy to keep you in my prayers. I think you are making a fantastic recovery! Much love, Jen Red

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, thanks Jen. I appreciate your prayers. I shouldn’t be able to be back in the classroom, and yet here I am, strong and striding forward.

      When I get home from school, I’m kind of DONE, so writing has been a mind-over-matter endeavor. I’m moving ahead…

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  9. Re-reading this a year later – and my typo in my earlier comment still bothers me! 🙂

    My recent hospital and rehabilitation stay, as well as my own near-death experience, remind me of the importance of enjoying the present. I remain grateful you are here with us in the moment, and hope you are continuing to take care of yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Even though I know how this story ended, I felt my heart racing for you. I am sooo glad you recovered from that. Miss Shake-It-Off is a great nickname for one who can still make us,smile as you relate your touch-and-go health crisis. Welk-writren, Laura!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the props, Denise. This is written well, if I do say so myself. Three weeks out? At that time I was still working to sit up for two hours at a time. Yeah, I was that weak. And, ha, this took me two days to think out and put into words…

      I watched many HGTV shows that summer, and innocuous things like Say Yes to the Dress and gentle nature shows where nobody dies, such as The Last Alaskans (by far my favorite). But by the time I hit Dog the Bounty Hunter (in late August), I knew I was well enough to step away from the television. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for sharing your experience here, Laura. What a horrific and scary ordeal to go through. Well written and I’m sure greatly encouraging for anyone caring and worrying about someone who may be sick.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I look back now and say, “A year ago I couldn’t do this or that,” and marvel at how far I’ve come. The funny thing is, I wasn’t scared. Then again, it isn’t funny–it was God’s grace seeing me through. 🙂

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  12. It seems impossible that this was a year ago. Probably not to you though : ) Besides the obvious blessing that you lived through this I keep thinking what a blessing that you weren’t afraid. I’m sure your outlook in the days that followed helped much too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, I thought I had read this post and commented before, but I guess not. What a frightening course of events. I’ve never even heard of a blood pressure that dropped so love. Thank God you made it through. I can well imagine you thinking is what nothing with your characteristic humility. So grateful it was not your time. Beautifully written piece.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I’m so glad you’re well again. Your account is all the more riveting for its low-key ‘matter-of-factness’ and wry humour. I love the bit about historical fiction. Curious how our mind works at times of high drama.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The humor is Miss Shake-It-Off in action, Valerie. A key point is that I teach 12 and 13-year-0lds. The matter-of-fact approach is how I survive! If I allowed myself to experience high drama, well…there would be a tidal wave of drama around here every day!

      The “wry” part of the humor thing is also a key to the puzzle. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. How slowly and how quickly a year goes by. Oh Laura, thank you for shaking it off, for walking it off, for resting it off, for writing it off, for praying it off, and for sharing your story. Thank you for realizing that you have not fulfilled God’s purpose yet and the best therefore, must be yet to come. I have learned much. Just….try not to do that again, okay? 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Congratulations on your, well, anniversary! I am grateful, since I might not have had the pleasure of reading your posts with your wonderful sense of humor and imagery. Here’s to many more years of shaking it off. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Oh wow – I remember those days. I remember feeling very small and helpless and so frightened on your behalf. I remember thinking “But I’m not finished hearing her stories yet!” (How selfish can one person be, eh?). Truly, truly, I am so very happy you’re still with us, still sharing stories and still bringing a smile to my face. Thank God!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I can’t even freakin’ believe it’s been a year. It feels like so much more recent…and so much longer ago. And then your momma and her eerie similarities. Ah, the weirdness of time. I am both selfishly and altruistically glad you persisted. We all need ya. For real.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The best work of my life is ahead of me–I remind myself of that. Today I worked in the front garden–we have trees that will grow like a carpet if I don’t weed out each year’s new seedlings–and I wondered how it had become so awful. And then I remembered that last spring and summer I went outside only to go to the car for appointments. Using a walker.

      It’s great to be able to dig in the dirt once more. And pulling weeds is cheap therapy, you know? Especially the ones with the long roots.

      Liked by 1 person

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