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KiwiGirl

Struggling to return to work

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I'm writing this post from New Zealand as unfortunately we've got no support groups over here for survivors of Sepsis. I'm just over the two month mark post severe sepsis with early stages of septic shock. I was in ICU for 3 days until I stabilised and then a further 8 days in hospital. My sepsis was caused by Strep A pyogenes bacteria but unfortunately we never found the actual site of infection/how the bacteria got in to my blood system. 

 

Prior to getting sick, I was worked as a Senior Executive for a large insurance company - responsible for a big team, a large budget and representing the company and the CEO externally in the media. It was high pressure, high responsibility and something I took in my stride up until sepsis came in to my life. 

 

I am two weeks in to a gradual return to work. At the request of my GP, I have been working 3 hours, 3 days per week but I"m really struggling. I find the days that I'm not working I can cope relatively well with life. My physical back pain is easing, my emotions are more manageble ( I have been diagnosed with PTSD and under the care of an amazing Psychologist for that). But I feel like I'm not the high achieving, driven, corporate executive that I was a few months ago. 

 

My brain just doesn't seem to be functioning like normal, small tasks are daunting, reading reports or anything too heavy is just overwhelming. On the outside I look well and the person they all know so well - but inside I'm a very different person. My work have been incredibly supportive but they're keen for me to be back in to the role in a full capacity and work priorities are piling up. 

 

I'm starting to question whether I will ever return to that person I was prior to sepsis. I've read a lot of information around the cognitive impact on sepsis survivors but it's largely focused on the older age bracket. Is there anyone in this forum around my age, who has had to contemplate a return to work and to a highly-pressured role? I know ultimately the answer is probably just to give myself as much time as I need and my body (and mind) will know when that is. But is that cognitive impact temporary? Any similar experiences or advice will be greatly appreciated! 

 

On a positive note - the medical teams here in NZ are pretty amazing when it comes to sepsis. Quick idenitifcation and diagnosis in hospital and a real appreciation of the recovery journey through the primary care networks too eg. my GP, Psychologist and physical rehab team. I couldn't be happier with the team here. But our small population means sepsis survivors aren't so common - my Infectious Disease Specialist sees 1-2 cases of 'me' per year and most don't survive. So the ability to tap in to support networks is very limited. 

 

Great to have stumbled upon this site. 

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Hi KiwiGirl,

 

Thank you for sharing your story.

 

I also was diagnosed with sepsis and post hospital with PTSD.

Both cognitively and physically sepsis has meant I am no longer able to do things I could before. In the early months/years I measured myself against my pre sepsis self and this would lead to lack of confidence and upset. It is my opinion that until you are able to accept 'being different' you will not move on and like your new self.

Cognitively I am hopeless at multi tasking (then again I am a man!) and get quite disorientated when tasked in this way. Furthermore my listening skills have suffered. It's difficult to explain but it is though I have to tell my brain to listen rather than doing this automatically.

 

Dealing with this - as I've said once you accept you will unlikely return to the person you was (maybe not a bad thing) it will be difficult to appreciate the person you are. Look for positives in the new you that are important in your job. For me I have more compassion that has led to improved work relationships and improved performance from those around me. Because I have to tell myself to listen I am surprisingly a better listener. I celebrate the ability to listen and in doing so find myself listening far more now. Now I am better at delegating tasks, due mainly to not having the energy to now do them myself. Delegation leads to improved job satisfaction to those around you and improves their potential to your organisation.

 

Tiredness often described on this forum as exhaustion is very common with sepsis survivors. For most it does get better and for the majority of the rest they accept it and either just listen to their body and rest when it tells them or in my case try to not have extremes. Extremes in that I don't push it when feeling ok and then I find I don't have as many 'exhaustion' episodes.

 

You are doing really well. It's brilliant to hear of the medics in NZ and your company's appreciation of your skillset in accepting a shorter working week. Please be kinder to yourself as you've been through I very scarey period and your body has taken a real beating. Measure yourself against post sepsis and I'm sure you will see how far you have come. A diary often helps others. Note any advancements you make, things that have made you smile and your concerns. Looking back in your diary will confirm you are making good progress.

 

All the very best,

 

Mark

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Fantastic reply mark

 

Hi I'm Sherrie a Itu nurse and help with support side of sepsis trust.

I've heard people saying how there illness has changed them giving them a new out look on life,

Concentration has always been one thing that pops up in so many conversations post sepsis, and it seems that it improves over time. Different methods are available to help but each person is different ,

It's great you have had good aftercare as this isn't always the case in the U.K. But sometimes just finding people who have been though sepsis and finding how you are feeling now is normal Is reassuring .

Listen to your body and rest when you need,

Mark is there links on webpage to support info books .

All the best

Sherrie xx

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Hi Sherrie,

 

Not sure if I fully understand your question so apologies if I'm way off the mark here.

 

My reading has been predominantly through other survivors on forums such as this and The Sepsis Alliance / http://www.sepsis.org/. Sepsis Alliance  have several good free publications on line.

Outside of the forums a book that was very helpful to me was 'The Compassionate Mind' by Paul Gilbert and several chronic pain books although none stand out as being the best.

Possibly the one piece of reading that made the biggest difference to me was 'Post Sepsis Syndrome' - http://sepsistrust.org/support/post-sepsis-syndrome/ 

 

To my knowledge there isn't anything above a leaflet that has been written specifically for sepsis survivors.  

 

 

Mark

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I'm writing this post from New Zealand as unfortunately we've got no support groups over here for survivors of Sepsis. I'm just over the two month mark post severe sepsis with early stages of septic shock. I was in ICU for 3 days until I stabilised and then a further 8 days in hospital. My sepsis was caused by Strep A pyogenes bacteria but unfortunately we never found the actual site of infection/how the bacteria got in to my blood system. 

 

Prior to getting sick, I was worked as a Senior Executive for a large insurance company - responsible for a big team, a large budget and representing the company and the CEO externally in the media. It was high pressure, high responsibility and something I took in my stride up until sepsis came in to my life. 

 

I am two weeks in to a gradual return to work. At the request of my GP, I have been working 3 hours, 3 days per week but I"m really struggling. I find the days that I'm not working I can cope relatively well with life. My physical back pain is easing, my emotions are more manageble ( I have been diagnosed with PTSD and under the care of an amazing Psychologist for that). But I feel like I'm not the high achieving, driven, corporate executive that I was a few months ago. 

 

My brain just doesn't seem to be functioning like normal, small tasks are daunting, reading reports or anything too heavy is just overwhelming. On the outside I look well and the person they all know so well - but inside I'm a very different person. My work have been incredibly supportive but they're keen for me to be back in to the role in a full capacity and work priorities are piling up. 

 

I'm starting to question whether I will ever return to that person I was prior to sepsis. I've read a lot of information around the cognitive impact on sepsis survivors but it's largely focused on the older age bracket. Is there anyone in this forum around my age, who has had to contemplate a return to work and to a highly-pressured role? I know ultimately the answer is probably just to give myself as much time as I need and my body (and mind) will know when that is. But is that cognitive impact temporary? Any similar experiences or advice will be greatly appreciated! 

 

On a positive note - the medical teams here in NZ are pretty amazing when it comes to sepsis. Quick idenitifcation and diagnosis in hospital and a real appreciation of the recovery journey through the primary care networks too eg. my GP, Psychologist and physical rehab team. I couldn't be happier with the team here. But our small population means sepsis survivors aren't so common - my Infectious Disease Specialist sees 1-2 cases of 'me' per year and most don't survive. So the ability to tap in to support networks is very limited. 

 

Great to have stumbled upon this site. 

Hello KiwiGirl and welcome to the forum,your doing really well to be back at work two months post sepsis, as im sure you know there is still so much that is still unknown about sepsis and recovery varies widely.there are so many ways for the strep pyogenes to enter the system its the most common cause of sore throat and is carried by many without incident but its potential to cause mild and severe diseases and our ability to deal with it thats the issue,they never found the bacteria that caused my sepsis either although mine was post surgical.

Your doing all the right things and it sounds like theres great support on the medical side,one of the things iv learned through my journey is no two cases are exactly the same you can have two people dx on the same day with the same condition in the same hospital and have two completely different  outcomes.

Mark has written a very insightful post where he talks about measuring himself against the person he was instead of the person he is now,and thats something i and im sure many others can relate to,it takes time to get to that point and alot of rebellion in my case.its early days its going to be at times painfully slow,but small progress is still progress and there will be setbacks  accepting that has been a struggle for me.

If you feel you may be struggling with the workload ,then its probably a good idea to mention it and maybe think about extending your phased return,and taking some time out,theres nothing wrong in that,youv been through alot and this may be a long road.

take the time you need,be good to yourself.take whatever help is available.

 

wishing you recovery

kind regards red

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Thank you all so much for the thoughtful and informative replies. It really is such a help to read them and hear from people who 'get it'. I think that's half the battle - trying to explain to others how much things have changed now and that I may look the same on the outside, but inside things are a little different now. 

 

I have a lot to think about now from your replies and I look forward to reporting back with positive progress, hopefully! :-) 

Warmest regards from NZ. 

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Wow I think you were very brave to return to work so quickly. Give yourself a break Kiwi Girl and remember you have been seriously ill. You need time for your body and spirit to recover. Take all the time and help you need to return to as normal as you can. It took me a whole year to return to work, however I had just had a baby too and I have a physical job. But even so I can only do limited hours even now at 19 months post sepsis. 

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I am currently off work due to sepsis, septic shock and late miscarriage and ARDS, I have been off work for 2 months, my white blood count is still high, my iron levels are low and I just 'don't feel right'.  that's physically without even looking at the emotional side- I think work will always be there- we just need time.

 

One thing I find is that my lungs feel 'tired'- I don't quite know how else to put it...its like laboured im just slowly trying to build myself up-I think you have to be kind to yourself- think about how you would treat a co-worker with this

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