Learn To Listen To Your Body: My Sepsis Experience

I wasn’t able to make many updates for year end and into the 1st few weeks of this year because —- I was extremely sick.

In November, I started to have pain in my groin area. Being the stubborn man that I am, I didn’t go to the doctor and just convinced myself to “fight through the pain”. That was extremely stupid! At one point my fever was 104.7, so I knew something was wrong. Come to find out it was kidney stones; 4 of those damn things. I was given antibiotics and this strainer thing to catch the stones as I passed them. The doctor at the time told me to finish the prescription and follow up with my primary doctor in 7-10 days. Seemed easy enough, right? [To read more on the symptoms, you can check out this article]

Photo Credit: Dr. Penalver Clinic (Miami, FL)

The phrase sepsis or septic shock was never brought to my attention. I didn’t know that the blockage created by the stones was slowly effecting my kidney function. So I went on with my life. For another month, I dealt with excruciating pain in my side, back and groin. One night, the pain was so bad that I couldn’t lay flat. The fetal position hurt. Nothing could numb what I was experiencing.

After demanding a referral to see a urologist, he discovered that I had a cyst on my kidney. At the time, he said it wasn’t big enough to cause concern and it wasn’t malignant. Okay, cool! All I needed to hear was no cancer and no surgery.

Yet the pain continued. I’d seen 2 doctors, had a battery of tests ran on me and still sepsis was never mentioned. Not even the possibility of developing it was something doctors thought I should know.

I don’t remember much after boarding a red eye Christmas Eve night. I just remember when I woke up, there were tubes, IVs, and monitors beeping all around me. However, for the first time in a little over a month, I was painless. Sort of.

The story was told to me afterward – apparently, the cyst had burst and had been leaking toxins into my stomach for at least 2-3 days. The infection entered my blood which caused me to go into septic shock at the airport. Luckily for me, my ICD probably save my life. The easiest way to explain sepsis is it’s an infection that attacks your body from the inside out. After speaking to the doctors with my family doing research on their own, I realized that sepsis is quite common for untreated (or insufficiently treated) UTIs and kidney stones. Septic shock happens when your body basically is overwhelmed by the amount of toxins in your bloodstream. You have to think of it almost as a domino effect. The toxins get circulated throughout your body and they’ll in turn start to attack your body’s organs. In this case, it was my kidneys. Here it is a month later and I’m still feeling the effects of the sepsis.

I’m hoping my story will be a cautionary tale for people, especially in this upcoming flu season. I can tell you definitively that sepsis will sneak up on you because it masks itself as just a common virus or bacteria. For me, it was the kidney stones. But for someone else, it could be a result of pneumonia, a cut on your skin, or even a dental procedure. The general symptoms are hard to pinpoint. There’s no scientifically accurate test for sepsis. However, do be vigilant with your own health! If you know your body and something just doesn’t feel right, listen to it.

If you’d like to read more about sepsis/septic shock and some of the most common warning signs, the Sepsis Alliance was a great resource for my family.

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