I was 55 when I suddenly began experiencing on and off atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular and often rapid heart rate. This occurs when the two upper chambers of your heart experience chaotic electrical signals. One day, it got so bad that I had to be taken to the ER for an emergency aneurysm repair and aortic valve replacement to treat my atrial fibrillation. I ended up coding the day before my surgery. Coding is when there is an abrupt loss of heart function and requires the medical team to begin immediate resuscitative efforts immediately. After I was resuscitated, I was put on ECMO, which is a form of life support where a machine circulates and oxygenates your blood. I then had open heart surgery two weeks later. Five days after my heart surgery, I went into acute septic shock which is when the Pseudomonas infection was discovered through a routine CBC lab test. My care team performed surgery to clean up the affected area, as pseudomonas is known to build a sticky biofilm within the lungs that can be difficult to remove and lead to more serious complications if not treated.
I ended up being hospitalized for a total of 61 days and I do not remember much. Once I was discharged I thought the HAI was gone as well, but my form of HAI turned out to be chronic. This means that I will need treatment for it for the rest of my life. I was in disbelief and shocked when I heard this news. Chronic HAI continues to override antibiotics prescribed, which means that I will have to deal with a life full of hospitalizations, doctor visits, side effects of antibiotics, and issues with post septic shock syndrome.
In the past 6 years, Mary has had 110 X-Rays, 24 CT scans, and 18 ECHOs all due to HAI. She notes that without the laboratory or its pathologists and laboratory professionals, her doctors would not have known what bacteria was in her bloodstream and she would have soon died from it. Lab tests continue to benefit her to this day as she gets cultures and blood draws every month. She hopes all patients realize that if you have had or live with an infection, blood tests are critical as it shows if and how your medication is helping you.