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My first septic patient-awareness of UTIs

the author and her patient

I’m a cancer nurse… which means I can sense sepsis coming from miles away and can smell an infection long before the signs and symptoms occur. I can’t remember all my patients who have gone septic, but I can remember my first one and always will.

I was in my final weeks of nursing school and enjoying my last few times of just being a quick train ride away from NYC. I was about 5 minutes away from walking out my door to the train station just a few blocks away to ride into NYC for a party when I got the phone call. My best friend from high school had been battling a UTI. She had started an antibiotic but things were not proving… and when she called she sounded like death. I changed clothes, hopped in my car and drove what felt like an eternity (really only 15 minutes) to get to her apartment. I ran up the stairs flew through the door and ripped the covers off when I saw her pulsating stomach and felt her extremely high heart rate. I called a friend because I wasn’t even sure I could get Adel down the stairs. It took a while but I got her to the car and our friend Rachel met us at the entrance to the emergency department.

I quickly parked the car and ran back in. When I saw her vitals it was in that moment that I wished I didn’t know what all the numbers meant. She was quickly rushed back and an IV thrown in her as the fluids started going. 3 liters in and her blood pressure was still well below the low range of normal and her heart rate was super elevated. She wasn’t able to pee and we sat waiting. Friends were cycling in and out and I was keeping her family posted on what was going on as her mom was on her way from a few hours away. It was in this situation I learned the value of hiding my emotions. I didn’t want Adel to know just how critical her situation was.

After 3 liters of fluid and no new signs of improvement the doctors started to talk ICU. It was at this moment that Adel realized the severity of the situation. Thankfully, just a few minutes later she was able to pee and her vital signs started to stabilize a bit. She was admitted and stayed in the hospital for a few days receiving antibiotics and IV fluids.

She was my first septic patient, but I’ve seen many since then. I write this blog to educate others on the fact that even healthy, vibrant people are susceptible to severe infections. Don’t take any infection or signs of infection too lightly and if something isn’t getting better when you are on an antibiotic let your physician know because the bacteria may very well be resistant to the antibiotic your on. Your life is important :-).

Thankfully, in just a few weeks I get to stand by Adel’s side as she marries the man of her dreams and I’m so beyond thankful that she does have this opportunity :-).

**This story was shared with permission from Adel**

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