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Sepsis Survivor: Working to Save the Antibiotics that Saved My Life

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog
Dana Mirman
Dana Mirman, writer and publicist

Guest Author: Dana Mirman, writer and publicist

In December, it will be five years since a bump on my shoulder that I thought was a bug bite developed into a life-threatening infection. The day after I noticed the bump, I suddenly developed flu-like symptoms that quickly turned into the worst “flu” of my life. Within a few hours, I had a soaring fever and couldn’t get out of bed. My husband rushed me to the hospital, where doctors and nurses in the emergency room immediately identified me as a patient in septic shock. I had no idea that what I thought was the “flu” was in fact sepsis – a complication caused by the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

I was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and received vasopressors, medication to help raise my blood pressure, as well as antibiotics to treat the infection. The vasopressors were buying time, keeping me alive so the antibiotics had time to work. If the antibiotics did not work quickly, I would die. I remained in the ICU for several days and was in the hospital for nearly a week before being discharged. Even after I was back at home, I had to visit an outpatient center to complete a course of IV antibiotics.

In the months following my ordeal, I read extensively about sepsis. I learned that early detection is critical and can mean the difference between life and death. I realized how lucky I was that my doctors had diagnosed me so quickly. Sepsis is a medical emergency – when sepsis is quickly recognized and treated, lives are saved. I decided to get involved and raise awareness about this deadly condition.

I reached out to Sepsis Alliance, the nation’s leading group dedicated to raising awareness of sepsis as a medical emergency, for information and support. As I recovered, I joined the organization as a volunteer, and today I am on the board of directors. I also started working with “Supermoms Against Superbugs,” a group of patients, parents, doctors, and farmers committed to the responsible use of antibiotics. Through my efforts with both of these initiatives, I want to emphasize the importance of knowing sepsis signs and symptoms and early recognition, as well as preserving the power of antibiotics so that they work when we really need them for serious medical emergencies, such as sepsis.

There are many different ways to preserve antibiotics. For example, hospitals can implement stewardship programs and food companies can commit to sourcing food raised with the responsible use of antibiotics.

I’m alive today because the doctors and nurses suspected sepsis, and the antibiotics they used to treat me were effective. That’s why I’m committed to increasing sepsis awareness and saving the power of antibiotics. It is critical that we all understand the gravity of sepsis – from moms and dads, to policymakers and healthcare providers – and that no one is immune. If you suspect that you or a loved one might have sepsis, seek medical help immediately and ask, “Could it be sepsis?” At the same time, we can all do our part to save antibiotics for future generations, and — in non-emergency circumstances – each of us can be informed patients and make a point to ask our doctor: “do I really need this antibiotic?”

Supermoms against superbugs: Meet the movement
I survived sepsis in large part because antibiotics worked when I needed them.
Meet some of the other “supermom” advocates working to protect antibiotics.

Dana Mirman is a writer and publicist. In December 2011, she survived sepsis. She credits her survival to her doctors’ prompt diagnosis and the efficacy of the antibiotics they used to treat her, and she shares her story to help raise awareness. Dana is a member of the board of directors of Sepsis Alliance, the national nonprofit organization devoted to raising awareness of sepsis, and an advocate with “Supermoms Against Superbugs,” a group of patients, parents, doctors and farmers committed to the responsible use of antibiotics.

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

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