BlogSeries Excerpts: Travels through a Toxic Shock Nightmare
Part IV: Travels
Part IV of my blogseries for Confident Voices in Healthcare. Welcome back. It can be hard to relive. At times I feel like I need to let it go and just live. Forget it, leave it in the past. At other times I feel that my story is needed and can be of use. At other times I feel like it might be some bizarre need for attention. A book? Really? Have I gone too far? Who do I think I am? I had never been into self-promotion with regards to anything. This has been to my detriment at times. Sepsis wakes you up and while it is an unforgiving bastard the least I can do is turn the tables on it and make some good come out of it. Force me to do things I wouldn’t have done before it happened. It has done that.
While a small part of me thought my experience might provide answers to all of life’s mysteries, that of course hasn’t happened. I have survived just to keep looking for answers but there are only more questions out there. I really am usually a private person but sepsis has pretty much knocked the door down on that type of life for me and slapped around who I was before all this occurred. I needed some slapping, but not that much. It has taken me five years to write this, it has been gestating and rolling around inside me. So the first option of going on and living my life has not worked, it eats at you and you have to get it out in some fashion and it has been both a frustrating and uplifting process. When I am invited to speak anywhere, I have been treated with such kindness and sincerity in these places, I can’t believe that something so horrible can end up so well with all the new friends and connections I have made. It is an unbelievable feeling but really I am just a product of the research, knowledge, and experience that smart people, really smart people have developed in just the past few years. The breakthroughs in understanding sepsis are all very recent. So much so that a couple of years before had it happened I would not have made it. Timing, luck, coordination, my overall health were all things that piled on to beat it.
This blog entry, Travels, I feel is the most trying time in my story. The feeling that you are lost in some universe or dimension that is beyond any understanding. In this phase I was just afloat, at the mercy of some power. I had no identity, no memories, nothing. My canvas had been wiped clean with nothing but conscious thought to guide me. No experience or knowledge. It was gone and I had nothing but fear and confusion. These are the memories that are really hard to grasp because at this point I was at my most vulnerable and I didn’t even know how I came to be. It still bothers me, that feeling and it is the loneliest, most helpless feeling I have ever felt.
Walking into the hospital room in the ICU, I was shocked to see my healthy, strong brother covered in tubes and surrounded by machines, appearing almost like a wax figure of himself. Only a few nights ago we had corresponded. It made no sense. Standing there, I wondered how we were ever going to get him back to the version of him I so desperately wanted to see right then – the one that I knew. When the doctor asked me if my parents were on their way and I said they were, he quickly followed up with the question of how soon would they arrive. It was then that I knew we may never get any version of Howard back at all. I had heard of toxic shock. I had heard of sepsis, but I have no idea it could take such a strong hold on a healthy person. To have my brother back is a blessing. It is a true testament to his and his doctors’ and nurses’ will, determination and resolve that he survived, because when I first saw him I thought: “How can anyone survive this?” –Lorraine Hoover Lucey (Sister)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
7:00 AM – 10:00 PM
“Howard, you’re not drinking, you need to drink something.” It was Becky and it was later that day. I looked over at the cup full of Gatorade, lemon/lime, not my favorite and took a sip. It was not what I wanted so I went back to sleep. I think I heard the kids getting up and running around downstairs. Then the door sensor chimed a few times and silence. Becky was taking them to school. Something I usually do and enjoy but I was missing it today. The day passed from morning into afternoon. I have no recollection except for the light turning fainter and fainter outside.
I don’t remember when the kids came home or if the usual activity of homework and TV watching was taking place downstairs but with one exception: I was awakened by the door creaking slowly open. Tiny footsteps came in and then stopped. There was a little presence in there and it had to be the very stealthy two-year-old Henry. Everyone says Henry is me at that age but I think that he resembles Becky more in the eyes and eyebrows. I could feel Henry examining the situation with the unmoving lump in the bed that was me but he said nothing. I simply could not raise my head to offer comfort and I did not want him catching what I had. So I lay there silently. Becky came to the door and whispered, “Henry, don’t bother Daddy, he’s not feeling well.”
“But I wanted to say hello and check on him,” Henry replied in his most caring voice.
“Come on out of there, let’s go downstairs,” Becky said.
The door quietly closed.
That night I woke up with a start. I heard rustling in the room, I managed to raise myself up onto my arms and look over the foot of the bed. Becky was lying on the floor with a pillow and blanket. I managed to utter,
“Why are you down there?”
“Because I don’t want to get what you have or disturb you,” she said
I agreed with this assessment but felt bad for her having to handle everything with work, the kids, and the house and ending the day with sleeping on the floor. It seemed much like the days when we had a newborn in the house. These feelings were fleeting as I dropped back to my prone position. Usually with the flu I would feel great aches and pain, while uncomfortable it still made me feel alive but with this there was nothingness, a complete absence of being. It was a feeling like I was losing touch with my body.
Becky Hoover’s Perspective
January 15, 2009 – Howard’s condition did not seem to be improving from yesterday and it gave me a very uneasy feeling. I got the kids ready for school and made the drop offs that morning. When I pulled out of the Local Elementary School parking lot I had every intention of driving to the office but I came to an intersection a few yards from the school where that uneasy feeling took hold of me. Going straight would take me to the office and going right would take me home. Then the thought of a co-worker popped in my head who lived in Atlanta at the time. Just last year she had been fighting an illness for a couple of days at home and the next morning her husband found her dead. The uneasy feeling won. I immediately decided to work from home and made that right turn.
What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a potentially fatal illness caused by a bacterial toxin. Different bacterial toxins may cause toxic shock syndrome, depending on the situation. The causative bacteria include Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. Streptococcal TSS is sometimes referred to as toxic shock-like syndrome (TSLS) or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS).
Stedman’s Medical Dictionary 28th Edition, Copyright© 2006_Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. All rights reserved.
Excerpt from Foreword
The critical care community has focused on sepsis for greater than a decade with outstanding research regarding early identification and treatment. Despite these efforts, even the hospitals that have been identified as the best for implementing codified protocols for treatment are successful in complying with all the elements of treatment only 40% of the time.—Dr. Scott Lindblom, Medical Director, CHS Critical Care Network, Section Chief, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine
About the Author
Howard Hoover lives in Charlotte, NC with his family and is a first time author. As a sepsis survivor he has been invited to speak at conferences, hospitals, and manufacturing facilities domestically and internationally. He holds bachelor degrees from the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and the University of South Florida, and a graduate degree from Mercer University. He is a registered professional engineer in Georgia and North Carolina.
Visit www.howardwhoover.com for more information about sepsis and a couple of other interesting items regarding my story. Travels through a Toxic Shock Nightmare is now available on Amazon. Thank you to the readers of Part I-III: Travels.