I Survived Sepsis. What’s Next?

What are the first steps in recovery?

After you have had sepsis, rehabilitation usually starts in the hospital by slowly helping you to move around and look after yourself: bathing, sitting up, standing, walking, taking yourself to the restroom, etc. The purpose of rehabilitation is to restore you back to your previous level of health or as close to it as possible. Work with your healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate rehabilitation plan and what activities are safe for you. Begin your rehabilitation by building up your activities slowly, and rest when you are tired.

How will I feel when I get home?

You have been seriously ill, and your body and mind need time to get better. You may experience the following physical symptoms upon returning home:

  • General to extreme weakness and fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • General body pains or aches
  • Difficulty moving around
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight loss, lack of appetite, food not tasting normal
  • Dry and itchy skin that may peel
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss

You may also experience the following feelings once you’re at home:

  • Unsure of yourself
  • Not caring about your appearance
  • Wanting to be alone, avoiding friends and family
  • Flashbacks, bad memories
  • Confusing reality (e.g, not sure what is real and what isn’t)
  • Feeling anxious, more worried than usual
  • Poor concentration
  • Depressed, angry, unmotivated
  • Frustration at not being able to do everyday tasks

Talk with your healthcare professional if you or your caregivers are concerned about any physical symptoms or feelings you are experiencing.

What can I do to recover at home?

Work with your healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate rehabilitation plan and what activities are safe for you. Some examples may include:

  • Set small, achievable goals for yourself each week, such as taking a bath, dressing yourself, or walking up the stairs
  • Rest and rebuild your strength
  • Talk about what you are feeling to family and friends
  • Record your thoughts, struggles, and milestones in a journal
  • 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 healthcare professional when you go for a check up

Are there any long-term effects of sepsis?

Many people who survive sepsis recover completely and their lives return to normal. However, as with some other illnesses requiring intensive medical care, some patients have long-term effects. These problems may not become apparent until several weeks after your hospital stay and may include such consequences as:

  • Insomnia, difficulty getting to or staying asleep
  • Nightmares, vivid hallucinations, panic attacks
  • Disabling muscle and joint pains
  • Decreased mental (cognitive) function
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-belief
  • Organ dysfunction (kidney failure, lung problems, etc.)
  • Amputations (loss of limb(s)

Talk with your healthcare professional if you have concerns about what you might experience in the weeks and months after getting home from the hospital.

Do the effects of sepsis get better? Am I at risk for sepsis again? What should I do if I think I have sepsis again?

Generally, the effects of sepsis do improve with time. Some hospitals have follow-up clinics or staff to help patients and families once they have been discharged. Find out if yours does or if there are local resources available to help you while you get better. However, if you feel you are not getting better or finding it difficult to cope, call your healthcare professional.

Keep in mind that people who survived sepsis are at higher risk for getting sepsis again. If you or your loved one has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ACT FAST. Get medical care IMMEDIATELY. Ask your healthcare professional, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?” and if you should go to the emergency room. With fast recognition and treatment, most people survive.