My name is Mary Millard and I hold a Masters in Education as well as being a past LPN. In the past 3 years I have educated myself in Microbiology, Epidemiology, and public health; along with extensively researching costs due to healthcare acquired infections as well as national statistics.
I must begin with saying what I recall of my stay in the hospital is the first 3 days and the last 12 days of step-down prior to going home. All that I have learned is from my records, physicians, P.As, and my husband. There are fleeting glimpses of a brightly lit OR and many drug induced nightmares however, I was kept in a medically induced coma due to multiple intubations…..
In fall of 2014 upon going to an emergency room after a serious bout of atrial fibrillation it was discovered that I had a 6.3cm ascending aortic aneurysm, and a partially collapsed aortic valve. This was deemed a genetic issue as there were no underlying diseases or health issues.
Two days prior to surgery the valve collapsed completely and I went into cardiac arrest. After coding and three attempts with the paddles that failed, an extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) procedure was implemented; where your heart and lungs are bypassed with a machine that circulates and oxygenates your blood, and an external pacemaker beats your heart.
After three days my own heart started beating again so ECMO instruments were removed and two weeks of recovery ensued. Doctors feared the aneurysm would burst so the open heart surgery took place.
Four days after the surgery I was placed in step-down, with the possibility of going home soon. On the fifth day my husband was visiting and noticed I was speaking in a confused manner , was feverish, and could not hold my head up. It was determined that acute septic shock had set in and I was rushed back to the ICU.
Wound cultures showed that I had contracted Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, a gram negative bacteria that creates a sticky biofilm on anything that is not your DNA in the body. It resides in this biofilm on my graft, valve replacement, tricuspid valve ring and groin graft (from the ECMO cannula).
I then underwent another opening of my sternum so the surgeon could clean out the chest cavity, from infection residue, debride the aortic graft to attempt a biofilm removal, as well as a Omental flap procedure. This is where they take part of the tissue from your abdomen to place in your chest cavity to nourish for healing.
By the time it was all over I had spent a total of 61 days in the hospital.
Upon release from the hospital, 4 weeks of home IV infusions ensued along with learning to walk again and performing simple tasks such as cooking and feeding pets. Two months in a hospital bed with very little physical therapy (as I was kept in a medically induced coma) along with acute septic shock weakened my muscles drastically.
Life has never been the same as the infection requires high dose Ciprofloxacin to stay out of your bloodstream. My days and months are filled with doctors visits, re hospitalizations, and procedures. The Cipro kills all good bacteria in your system leaving me open to other bad bacteria and this has resulted in respiratory and intestinal infections.
Going thru acute septic shock has resulted in heart failure which required a pacemaker insertion, and leaves me with shortness of breath, and fatigue. Post sepsis syndrome also exits with permanent neuropathy, a completely numb left foot, as well as post traumatic stress syndrome.
To date I have had:
100 x- rays
21 CT scans
Multiple extra procedures
7 re-hospitalizations, and 27 of emergency room visits.
In July of 2015 I went septic again and after a procedure to remove some remaining sternal sutures it was discovered the Pseudomonas had overridden the lower dose of initial Cipro. After one week in the hospital I underwent another month of home , and then placed on the highest legal daily dose of Cipro allowed.
No one knows what the future holds as my care is reactionary since there is no protocol for my condition as I have been told by several experts in the Infectious Diseases discipline that be a surgical site Pseudomonas survivor is very rare.
Having decided to share my story, with the encouragement of my doctors and family, is so that I can speak for those who cannot and help prevent healthcare acquired infections as well as inspire research on antimicrobial resistance. I speak to crowds large and small to inspire others so that this issue can be addressed and the problem of antibiotic resistant microorganisms can end. They do effect anyone!
I have also become a board member at the Healthcare Surfaces Institute as the majority of infections are caught from surfaces such as medical devices, counter-tops textiles and more…. The HSI is a collaborative of exerts from all fields of infection prevention and awareness.