Sepsis Stories
Michelle Backus Sepsis Survivor.
Michelle Backus: Survived Sepsis, Age 41

In April, my 8-year-old daughter came home from school with the flu. She was the sickest she’d ever been, and the illness made its way through our family of four. I was so preoccupied with taking care of everyone that I didn’t think too much about my own health. I had the flu, for sure, but I’m 41, without question the healthiest of all my friends, and I run an average of 35 miles a week. In fact, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon 6 months prior.

After two weeks of being sick and not exercising, I decided enough was enough and I was going to put on my big girl pants and get on with life. I felt crummy, but I thought I could kick it. I went for a 6-mile run with my best friend, who I run with most days, and who happens to be a former ER doctor. We did our daily loop, chatted and laughed throughout. Afterwards, I didn’t feel my best, but I was sick, no big deal. I had a lighter than usual breakfast and went to work.

Throughout that day, I started to feel sick to my stomach. I came home from work at 3pm and laid down on the couch, and later moved to my bedroom upstairs as my symptoms worsened.

By 4pm, I knew something was wrong. I texted my husband, who was downstairs, and told him he needed to cover dinner for our kids. A request I don’t think I’ve ever made. I started violently shaking and vomiting. I took a Zofran I had leftover from pregnancy, but vomited it up (thankfully). I texted my friend, Chrissy, what I thought were my symptoms. She later told me my texts were incoherent, so she rushed to my house.

When she arrived, my kids were downstairs watching TV, and my husband was working in his office. She found me collapsed on the bathroom floor. I had a 103.9 fever and had gone into septic shock.

I had Flu B and pneumococcal pneumonia. The latter made its way into my bloodstream, perhaps via my lungs when I was on the run, causing a rapid decline.

I was rushed to the ER and then admitted to the hospital for 4 nights. I was discharged with a midline for 2 more weeks of IV antibiotics.

I’m here today because my best friend was an ER doctor and knew the signs of sepsis. I did not. If I had taken the Zofran and it had worked, I would have stayed home that night in May and most likely died overnight.

The outpouring of support from my friends and family was incredible, and everyone had the same comment: “We never thought this could happen to you. You’re the healthiest person we know.” If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.

For that reason, I’d like to join the effort to spread the word about sepsis. I was one of the lucky ones. Chrissy knew. But not everyone has an ER doctor as their best friend, so for them, I’d like to help.