My Experience with Postpartum Infection Resulting in Sepsis
I remember the point at which I could no longer deny that I was in serious trouble. I was sobbing in pain in front of my 3-year-old Jack, on the phone with my mom telling her to pick up formula and come to my house and watch the boys. Joey was 6 weeks old and I was still exclusively breastfeeding, but I was instinctively preparing for the worst. I couldn’t take care of the kids anymore. I could barely walk. I could barely breathe. When she arrived, I drove myself to the ER and hobbled inside. “What’s the problem?” the receptionist asked. “Intestinal pain” I whispered, no longer able to speak.
Ten days earlier I had my first postpartum check up and everything seemed fine. Three days later I experienced the most crippling pain of my life in my midsection. My ribs and collarbones hurt every time I breathed in and I couldn’t keep any food or water down. Walking was excruciating, and I had a fever to top it off. I went back to my OBGYN office, but my midwife wasn’t available, so I saw a doctor on staff. I told her about my symptoms but also my account of the day before. Recalling this as I write makes me laugh out loud and shake my head.
I went to Billy Beez with the boys and their cousins. My brother-in-law ran straight up a huge, almost vertical slide and I wanted to show off that I could do it too (Thanks for that ego!) so I ran up and leaped to reach for the ledge at the top. My 6-week postpartum body slammed against the slide. Not a wise thing to do…LOL. The doctor justly assumed that must have been the cause of my symptoms and sent me home. Three days later I was in the ER and it turned out I had been suffering from a postpartum infection and not the incident at Billy Beez.
The doctors ran several tests before admitting me to the ICU. I was told that I had an abscess in my pelvis, a high fever, tachycardia, and Strep B in my bloodstream. The infection had lead to sepsis and my organs were starting to fail, starting with my intestines. An MRI showed that my small and large intestines were so inflamed (evident by my swollen belly that looked 9 months pregnant) that I had to undergo a colonoscopy to check things out more. I was also told that I needed surgery to remove an ovary.
The hospital staff was amazing at Fair Oaks. After 3 days in the ICU they allowed me to transfer to another ward for the last couple of days, so my babies could visit me. Children weren’t allowed in the ICU. Lactation consultants helped me to pump milk, which I appreciated although later decided to give up. My husband and family were so supportive during my whole endeavor, especially by helping with the kids. I was sent home with a pic line and administered IV antibiotics to myself for 10 days followed by antibiotic pills for another couple of weeks. My infection cleared up and I no longer needed surgery.
It was Spring, and I was so happy to be alive and home. My health became a priority and I wanted to take care of myself in all aspects of wellness including physical, mental, and spiritual. I began to be more in touch with who I am and what I love. I began spending a lot of time in nature with the kids, doing yoga, and trying to be more mindful in every day life. I learned that after heavy antibiotic use, the intestines are wiped out of bad and good bacteria, so I incorporated more fermented foods. I also cut back on gluten, ate plenty of fruits and vegetables, and drank lots of bone broth and water.
I’m in Stroller Strides now and do about 3 butt-kicking workouts a week along with my daily yoga practice at home. It’s been a great experience so far as I get to be part of an amazing community of women. Getting strong physically has been very empowering. My kids get to watch their mom lead a healthy lifestyle, and I get to socialize! I used to tend to isolate but now I’m putting myself out there more. I may be socially awkward as hell at times, but do I let that stop me? No! I’ve really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the wonderful women of Fit4Mom LSBWK NoVa the past few weeks and hope to continue to be more involved.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. I hope you enjoyed it!
**Sheila McCracken has been a member of FIT4MOM Lorton/Springfield/Burke/Woodbridge/Kingstowne since September 2017. She is mom to Jack (December 2013) and Joey (January 2017). Since writing this article, Sheila has also become one of our newest Fit4Baby, Stroller Barre & Stroller Strides Instructors. You can take one of Sheila’s classes on Wednesdays in Fairfax Station or Thursdays in Burke.
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