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Recovering from Sepsis

Sepsis 6

 

Now that you or someone you care about has survived sepsis, you may have many questions about what comes next.

How long does it take to recover from Sepsis?

The amount of time it takes to fully recover from sepsis varies, depending on the individual person's overall health and fitness prior to their illness as well as the length and severity of the sepsis. Whilst  some people make a full recovery fairly quickly, other people experience long-term physical and/or psychological problems for up to two years afterwards as an effect of being critically ill and spending time in a Critical Care Unit.

Sepsis can cause some additional problems that may not become apparent for several weeks, for example, recurring infections. These long-term problems are known as post-sepsis syndrome (PSS) and can either be physical (e.g. muscle weakness, swollen limbs or changes sensation in limbs) or psychological and emotional (e.g. anxiety or poor concentration) (see ‘How will I feel when I get home’ for more information).

It is important to remember that not everyone experiences these problems after being critically ill and surviving sepsis.

What are the first steps in recovery and rehabilitation?

The purpose of rehabilitation is to restore you back to your previous level of health or as close to it as possible. After you have had sepsis, rehabilitation usually starts in the hospital by slowly helping you to move around and look after yourself.  You will likely be working with physiotherapists to help you move and do exercises so you can regain your strength.  Your need for more care and rehabilitation once you go home should be assessed and discussed with you prior to being discharged from the hospital and be followed up with your GP and/or community health care providers.

How will I feel when I get home?

You have been seriously ill, and your body and mind need time to get better. You will likely be very tired and will need to sleep and rest a lot, but you might also find sleeping difficult.

You may feel very weak and lose weight. Simple things, such as getting dressed or even receiving visitors and talking may seem difficult at first as you often feel very tired and need to do more now you are at home. Begin your rehabilitation by building up your activities slowly and rest when you are tired.

Your skin may be dry, itchy and peel. A skin moisturizer may help. Your nails might break easily and your hair may change. It may start to fall out and get very thin. It should grow back.

You may find that you don’t have an appetite. Build this up by eating small meals several times a day rather than three large meals per day. Nutrition drinks that can be bought in local stores may help.

It is not unusual to feel anxious, depressed, unmotivated or a lack of enjoyment in things you usually do. You may have difficulty concentrating and feel frustration at not be able to do things you took for granted such as walking or eating. You may become upset or cry for what may seem like no reason. Some people experience flashbacks, nightmares and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Generally, these problems do improve with time. They are a normal response to what you have been through.  Speak to your GP or healthcare provider about local resources available to help you while you get better.

What can I do to help myself recover at home?

It might help to:

  • Set small, achievable goals for yourself each week, such as walking up the stairs
  • Rest and rebuild your strength
  • Talk about what you are feeling to family and friends
  • Keep a journal so you can see that you are getting better and stronger
  • Learn about sepsis to understand what happened
  • Ask your family to fill in any gaps you may have in your memory about what happened to you
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Exercise if you feel up to it
  • Make a list of questions to ask your doctor when you go for a check up

You should find it easier to cope as time goes by and as you begin to get stronger and get back to doing your normal activities. If you feel that you are not getting better or are finding it difficult to cope, see your GP for help.

The UK Sepsis Trust also provides information on support for survivors and their relatives as well as for bereaved.

What’s normal and when should I be concerned?

Generally, the problems described on this page do improve with time. They are a normal response to what you have been through.

However, if you feel that you are not getting better, or finding it difficult to cope, or continue to be exhausted speak with your GP or healthcare provider.

Where can I get more information?

Read more about recovering from sepsis on the UK Sepsis Trust site.

References:

UK Sepsis Trust (accessed 17/02/2017)  http://sepsistrust.org/public/recovering-from-sepsis/

Sepsis Alliance (accessed 17/02/2017)   http://www.sepsis.org/life-after-sepsis/

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