Sharon Simmons, of Tangerine, doesn’t remember the day she was rushed to the Emergency Department at Florida Hospital Waterman, but her family will never forget it. “Two days prior to my hospitalization, I had developed a fever and severe pain in both of my legs. I began throwing up and talking gibberish to my boyfriend,” explains Simmons. “What I thought was the flu or a stomach virus was obviously something much worse.”
By the time Simmons arrived at the emergency department, her legs were changing colors to varying degrees of red, black and blue. The medical staff immediately knew her condition was life-threatening. “The physicians put me in a medically induced coma and immediately took me to surgery,” says Simmons. “The physicians told my boyfriend to call my children because I had a 5% chance of living. My body had become septic and was shutting down.”
“Sepsis is the body’s over active and toxic response to an infection. Any bacterial or viral condition such as bronchitis, urinary tract infection or tonsillitis is considered a form of sepsis,” explains Simmons’ physician and Director of Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Louis Guzzi, M.D. “Early treatment of these conditions is important so that the infection does not progress to a life-threatening state.”
When Simmons woke up in the Intensive Care Unit, she couldn’t move her legs or arms and had what appeared to be burns on her hands and covering her lower legs.
Above: Dr. Louis Guzzi
“I was in the hospital a total of seven weeks and most of that time was spent doing physical therapy and healing my wounds,” says Simmons. “The discoloring of my legs that the physicians noticed was actually the infection spreading through my bloodstream. I was left with nerve damage in my legs and feet from the lack of oxygen to my extremities during the infection. At one point I was facing possibly amputation of several limbs but thankfully it never came to that point.” Today, she is passionate about sharing her story and educating others on the importance of recognizing early signs of sepsis. Until her diagnosis, Simmons had never heard of the condition. “I shouldn’t be here today. I was given a 5% chance of living and yet by the grace of God I am alive,” says Simmons. “I view life each day as a gift.” SYMPTOMS OF SEPSIS S Shivering, fever, or very cold E Extreme pain or general discomfort ("worst ever") P Pale or discolored skin S Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused I "I feel like I might die." S Short of breath
Watch for a combination of these symptoms. If you suspect sepsis, see a doctor urgently, Call 911 or go to the hospital and say "I'm concerned about sepsis." Find a physician here.