Joe

Meningococcal Meningitis Survivor | New York

On July 11, 2011, feeling nothing worse than a bad cold, I became ill with meningococcal infection and eventually fell victim to septic shock, and nearly died.

For me, the journey began on a Thursday – June 24, 2011 – in Albany, when I underwent a significant amount of dental work. What was intended to be a protracted procedure scheduled over several weeks was instead accomplished by two different dentists in approximately two hours.

Two days later, a process which seemed to cause me no problems in the short run was now the source of great pain.

By Saturday night, the pain became excruciating, and on Sunday morning, I called the dentist for direction on what to do next, and he prescribed an antibiotic. By this time, I was alternating fever and chills. I spent the next four or five hours passed out, and when I awoke, I had an abscess the size of a Chiclet on the roof of my mouth.

On Monday morning, June 28, I awoke, feeling well enough to go to work, though the Chiclet remained. I kept in contact with the dentist office receptionists, conveying my concern and discomfort from the abscess, but was told not to worry.

On Sunday, July 3, I left on a weeklong work trip to San Francisco and Berkeley, the bump still very much prominent, and I had to learn to speak and eat around it.

I felt fine all week – well, nearly so, just some sniffles but nothing to be concerned about, and I had full days of face-to-face interviews followed by restful nights of adequate sleep.

I left the Bay Area on Sunday afternoon, July 10, arriving in Albany 1:30 a.m. Monday morning. I went to bed feeling like I definitely had a cold, but nothing like the agony of two weeks prior.

That morning – Monday, July 11 – 17 days after the initial dental work – I awoke with a much worse “cold”. I had planned to work from home, but found myself able only to check my email and prepare to leave for the endodontist for an 11 a.m. check-up. I thought nothing of driving myself to the dentist, but remember nothing of the visit, or of the drive home, except that I had to stop on the way; I couldn’t make the 10 to 12 minute drive through city streets – and I didn’t find that unusual.

Obviously, I wasn’t clear-thinking or I would have realized that anyone unable to attend to such a small task must be really sick. I went home, threw myself on the bed of my second story Albany bedroom, and fell asleep for the next seven hours.

My mother, who lives in Utica, had apparently been trying to reach me by telephone all day, and when I didn’t answer, she sensed something was wrong. She tried unsuccessfully to reach my neighbors, and eventually reached a friend who shared her concern – and premonition – and drove the 25-30 minutes to my house to check on me.

The door to the house was locked, but the car was parked in front, indicating I was home, so he repeatedly called up to my bedroom window until miraculously, I awakened and –remarkably- walked down a flight of stairs to let him in and then walked back up again to return to my bed. I was totally exhausted, and apparently, he was confident that I needed immediate help. My friend insisted, thankfully, on calling the EMTs, who took me to a nearby hospital.

I might have waited longer except my friend called my primary doctor, also a friend, who in turn called the ER and insisted that a doctor see me immediately.

That changed everything, or so I’m told. Upon close observation, it was clear that I was in severe sepsis, and my body was experiencing septic shock – a severe drop in blood pressure.

Now, Doctors and IVs were flying everywhere, and my friend was told that he should “notify the family immediately,” as I might not last the night. I was on life support.

At first, the doctors didn’t know what kind of infection they were fighting, but it turned out it was a bacterial meningococcal infection – Neisseria meningitidis.

In the next few hours and days, lungs, kidneys, liver, heart – everything – failed.

Eight days later, I showed signs of a chance of survival. I was brought into consciousness. The ventilator tube was removed, and I started my climb back to life, spared the amputations, the blindness and all the other things that usually accompany this experience.

I spent 19 days in the Critical Care Unit, was discharged directly home, and started down the road to my recovery. In three months, I was back to working; lethargic, but working.

It’s been 21 months since the incident, and I’ve more or less returned to my normal state. I know this is not the norm, and I am very grateful. I hope to demonstrate my gratitude and appreciation by educating people on sepsis.


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