By Rebecca Drew
THIS MUM had to HEAR HER FAMILY SAY THEIR FINAL GOODBYES whilst heavily sedated, then have ALL her TOES, parts of her FINGERS and her WHOLE HAND amputated and was in hospital for FORTY-SIX DAYS after she went into SEPTIC SHOCK from pneumonia that she didn’t even know she had.
Mum of two, Racheal Acuff (32) from Missouri, USA, drove herself to hospital on June 19, 2018 after noticing blood in her urine which indicated a kidney infection but when she arrived her health quickly deteriorated within the space of 12 hours.
Doctors tried to take her blood pressure, but it was almost too low to register at 43/13 and Racheal was quickly moved into a room on her own where they started to run tests before being moved to another unit. This is the last thing Racheal remembers as she was then sedated for three weeks.
During this time, Racheal’s family were called into the hospital to say their final goodbyes, which she could hear but not respond to due to sedation as doctors expected the worst, but to their surprise Racheal came round weeks later and was shocked when her mum told her that she had septic shock from pneumonia which she had no symptoms of prior other than tiredness and a kidney infection.
Racheal also had disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a blood clotting disorder common in sepsis patients, toxic shock syndrome (TSS) from an unknown source and her kidneys were not working so she was put on dialysis. She was put on a ventilator to aid her breathing, had a feeding tube and IVs for her antibiotics to fight the infection and for a blood transfusion.
After hearing her family say their last goodbyes to her, Racheal decided that she was not ready to die and despite being initially surprised when she woke up, made it her mission to get better for herself and her boyfriend, Taylor (36) and daughters, Eden (13) and Reagan (9).
Racheal was in an intensive care unit for 38 days before being moved to a step down unit for a further eight days and spending two-weeks at an inpatient rehabilitation facility where she learnt to walk again and she went home in August.
Since returning home, Racheal has had surgeries to amputate her fingers, toes and hand which were left damaged from her illness and although her recovery has been incredibly tough, she says it has shown her a strength she never knew she had and has taught her to appreciate everything in life.
“I went into septic shock on June 19, 2018, from pneumonia and a kidney infection. I had no symptoms of pneumonia and I only knew of the kidney infection when I peed blood. I drove myself to the hospital as my boyfriend was currently in the same hospital with gallbladder issues,” said Racheal.
“Once I got to the hospital everything started happening really fast after they took my blood pressure which was so low it almost didn’t register. They moved me to a room right away and began running a list of tests.
“The last thing I remember was being told they were moving me upstairs and then I was sedated for three weeks. When I woke up my mum explained to me that I had septic shock, DIC and toxic shock syndrome from an unknown source.
“I was on a ventilator which was helping me breath, a feeding tube for all my nutrients, a port-a-cath for my dialysis because my kidneys were no longer working and two IVs for access for blood and to give me all my meds.
“I remember hearing my family cry when the doctors told them to bring in family to say their last goodbyes, but I was sedated and had no way to respond to them. I felt totally helpless but I knew I had to fight to prove them wrong. I didn’t feel like I was dying, and I wasn’t going to.
“When I first woke up, I was totally surprised, and then I went into fight mode. I began to fight harder every day to get better. The doctors knew right away based on my blood work that I was septic and knew exactly what was wrong and treated me instantly with four antibiotics in the intensive care unit for 38 days.
“I was then moved to step down for an additional eight days for a total of 46 days in the hospital. I was then moved to an inpatient rehab facility for additional two weeks to learn to walk again and after almost nine weeks of medical attention I went home.”
Once home Racheal’s sepsis ordeal still wasn’t over as her extremities were damaged due to the lack of blood flow whilst she was ill.
On August 29, 2018, she had the dead parts of four of her fingers on her left hand removed followed by the removal of the dead tissue on all five fingers on her right hand on September 10, 2018 and the amputation of all 10 of her toes on September 24, 2018.
Racheal had revision surgery to remove the little finger on her right hand on March 28, 2019 and on May 22, 2019 had a trans-radial amputation of her right hand two inches above the wrist.
Recovering from her toe surgeries was the most harrowing for Racheal as it took her three weeks to walk again due to pain and she is learning to adapt to life without her right hand and is looking forward to getting a prosthetic in a few weeks’ time.
“Since I came home in August of last year I have had three surgeries on my hands, two to amputate my fingers that had lost blood flow during my illness and died, and my most recent, the amputation of my right hand due to its lack of mobility and function,” said Racheal.
“The recovery process of sepsis was long and discouraging but in the end it gave me strength I didn’t know I had. The recovery of each surgery was different with my foot surgery being the worst, I couldn’t walk on them for three weeks and it was very painful.
“My most recent hand amputation has been difficult in that I lost a whole hand, lucky for me I’m left-handed and they took my right but it’s still different. I’m starting to adapt until I get my new hand in a few weeks.
“I have grown so much through this process in myself and in my faith in God. There is no medical reason I should be alive. So, something more powerful is in my corner for sure.
“I soak up every moment good and bad and never take life for granted. It’s such a special gift you’ve been given so live it well, because you’ll never know when it could be taken away from you, and when it’s real bad remember, it’s just a bad day not a bad life.”
Since her near-fatal experience with sepsis, Racheal has made it her mission to spread the word about sepsis after researching it extensively following her discharge from hospital. She hopes that in sharing her story, she can help save the lives of others.
“Since my sepsis diagnosis and I’ve done my research, I think there is so much more people can do to spread awareness because it really can be a silent killer,” she said.
“The only symptom I had was excessive tiredness. I never ran a fever and had no other signs of infection. My advice to anyone who reads my story is be your own doctor first.
“Take control of your illness, your doctor works for you, make them run that test or lab work. They are not perfect, and they don’t always catch things.
“If you’re a sepsis survivor then be a voice for those who didn’t make it and make a wave in your community about this awful disease, you never know when the right person is going to hear it.”