Sepsis Blog
I Survived Sepsis and COVID -Mom

My name is Emily Sigerson and in 2016 I became a survivor of septic shock which resulted in multiple organ failure. 

Since then I tend to look at any illness through a more scrupulous lens. Whenever my family or I get sick, I cautiously monitor symptoms looking for any signs of rapid decline that could indicate sepsis. This is the nature of what it is to be a sepsis survivor. We are constantly on high alert because we know that every minute counts when it comes to diagnosing and treating sepsis. 

When I first started seeing reports of COVID-19 I did not anticipate it impacting the area where I live. My family seemed so far removed from what was occurring in Italy, but that changed and the virus quickly made its way to New York, and soon there was a hotspot in my local suburban community. On March 12th of this year, my children went to school for the last time. Then on March 20th, my husband reported to his job in NYC for the last time before the shutdown began. 

Two days later, on March 22nd, my husband began feeling sick and I quickly followed suit. The positive COVID-19 test results came back the next day and one by one all five of our young children became ill, presumed to be COVID-19 positive due to the immediate exposure in our home. We were quarantined for 14 days and rode the wave of the illness, thankfully without the need for hospitalization. Since the pandemic started, many sepsis survivors have had questions and concerns about what might happen to them if they contracted COVID-19, they’ve asked me about my experience. So, I have compiled a list of both my sepsis and COVID-19 symptoms in the hope that it would provide some clarity.  I believe the unknowns that go along with being a sepsis survivor can be the most frightening and although my symptoms are unique to my personal experience, I hope this information can be helpful.

 

With sepsis, my health declined rapidly. I went from being perfectly fine to coding within 24 hours of my first symptom. I was diagnosed with urosepsis which is a type of sepsis caused by a urinary tract infection that is not treated quickly or properly. My urosepsis was unrelated to any upper respiratory issues, and my symptoms were as follows:

  • Active infection 
  • High fever >103
  • Extremely low blood pressure
  • High respiratory rate
  • Tachycardia 
  • Mental confusion
  • Slurred speech 
  • Severe pain 
  • Violent rigors 

 

With COVID-19, my symptoms progressed more like flu, lasting about two weeks with the first 5-7 days being the worst. My doctor monitored my symptoms closely due to my history of septic shock and multiple organ failure. My COVID-19 symptoms were as follows:

  • Active infection
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Metallic taste in my mouth
  • High respiratory rate
  • Fatigue
  • Fever 100-102
  • Chills (that I would not define as rigors)
  • Body aches
  • Extreme headaches
  • Dry cough 

If I were to compare my sepsis symptoms to my COVID-19 symptoms, I would say there are some definite similarities. However, the important differences I noted were the severity of my sepsis symptoms as well as the rapid progression of my health decline. Sepsis is a risk factor with COVID-19, and it is important to diligently monitor symptoms if you or a loved one become ill. It is also important to use the word sepsis when expressing concerns to your healthcare provider. There is understandable trepidation amongst the sepsis survivor community as this pandemic continues to impact all our lives. Many of us have taken this time to use our experience to educate about the signs and symptoms of sepsis. It is imperative that we continue to do that so those around us can be armed with the information that is needed to save lives.

The Rory Staunton Foundation is now END SEPSIS.

Rory's story is the story of our entire community.

This new identity represents the expanded scope of our work as we build on our past successes and continue the war against sepsis.

Thank you for your continued support and we welcome you to join us in our future endeavors!

- Orlaith & Ciaran Staunton