Sepsis Stories
Richelle Cooke: Survived Sepsis

On December 30, 2021, I was informed I had kidney stones in my left kidney, gallstones and a weird benign mass on my liver. I was thinking to myself, “Good God, why am I such a mess?!” By January 3rd, my urologist told me I had an 11mm kidney stone. Again, I was thinking what a mess I was. He told me he was going to take it out as soon as he could.

February 18th came, surgery day. I was put out and he attempted to remove the kidney stone through my urethra. At 2 years old I had bladder reconstruction surgery because my flap on my bladder kept flushing the backwash urine into my bladder. That caused constant UTIs. Well, I was informed in recovery it failed. That I needed to come back in for a consultation for a NEW surgery date.

I got a new date which was April 7th. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy is what I got this trip. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. We had no idea it was failed til Mother’s Day morning. Apparently, the kidney stone didn’t bust up like he thought. Instead, it got knocked into my ureter.

Fast forward exactly one month ahead. May 6th-7th my side had felt really off. I called that morning of the 7th and got the last appointment of the day at adult after hours. I go to my doctor’s appointment, that was fine. After my visit, that’s when everything went to hell in a hand basket. My on call doctor gave me a tordal shot, took a urine sample then sent me home with hydrocodone and cephalexon. He told me and my mom, “I don’t want to send her to the ER because she’s been through so much lately.”

Fast forward 3 hours after getting home. It’s 7pm, I told mom I was going to take a nap because I was tired and sore. I’d been very lethargic all day long. My brother woke me up at 9pm to ask me a question and that’s all I really remember. By 2am I was in danger of dying. My mom said I yelled for her three times. She said she had to go to the bathroom and then went to check on me. Once she looked at me, she knew something was VERY wrong. My mom called 9-1-1.

The paramedics and EMTs came in. One particular EMT kept me very calm while I had my ride to the hospital, his name was David. The ambulance gave me a stuffed animal so I had a friend to keep me happy. After exiting the ambulance, I really don’t remember anything. I remember my mom came with my brother to bring me my phone, charger, tablet, blanket and glasses. After they left, I remembered going into a scary white cramped room. I was so upset, I remember fighting nurses and doctors. They needed me to stay still, so they had to strap me down to a table. I think it was for CT, but I’m not sure, they had me under anesthesia.

When I woke up on May 9th, I realized I had lost an entire day. My ICU nurse Wally let me know I’d be OK. That I was safe. I had a breathing tube put down my throat, a central line and 2 IV trees. I was scared, I was far from home and I just wanted my own bed. When I tried to move, Wally informed me I had a nephrostomy tube placed on my left side on the lower back. He also told me I was very lucky, that septic shock is really scary and how sick I was. By that afternoon I was moved to MCU. The next morning a different urologist came in and told me that I wasn’t going to go home til after my stone removal.

A few days later, I was told I could go home as early as May 21st. After surgery, I didn’t realize I accidentally pulled on my nephrostemy tube. I had been so careful. I was only home for 15 hours when I needed to go back to the ER. I needed to get it reinserted because the bag wasn’t draining for that long. I was luckily only in for overnight observation. I came in on the 22nd and went home on the 23rd.

Fast forward one week. My side had hurt so bad from the urology appointment and capping the nephrostemy tube that Thursday. By Saturday, I developed ANOTHER kidney infection. I was held for 5 days. Since then, I’ve been home for almost 3 weeks. Things are going well, I’m doing PT and got ahold of a counselor for my PTSD. This was the single most frightening experience I’ve ever had. Not even my brain surgery had me scared as a little kid.

After this experience, I’ve learned I’m so much braver, tougher and more resilient than I’ve even seen myself before. I’ll give myself some grace because, none of this was my fault and I definitely couldn’t have predicted this would be the outcome of a single kidney stone.