LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - September is Sepsis Awareness Month. Sepsis is an infection that gets out of control, a medical emergency that kills more than 250,000 Americans every year.
One Lubbock patient understands how dangerous that diagnosis can be. She is so thankful to be alive after surviving sepsis, even though it cost her 4 amputations. Lucretia McCutcheon had been treated by a private doctor for a nagging fever, body aches and shortness of breath. But it wasn’t getting better. She says, “I kept knowing there was something wrong with me. I just didn’t know what it was.”
On January 6th, her husband, Michael, couldn’t wake her up. Michael says, “She had sepsis. We didn’t know it and it shut her down that night.” Lucretia was rushed to UMC, where doctors learned that she had walking pneumonia and that infection had turned to Sepsis. Her organs were failing and blood was not reaching her hands and feet. On January 22nd, while Lucretia was still in a coma, doctors were forced to amputate both arms below the elbow and both legs below the knee in an effort to save her life. Finally, on January 28th, she opened her eyes. The worst was over… Or was it?
Lucretia says, “When I woke up, I didn’t have my hands and feet.”
Sepsis Alliance estimates that 38 people every day in this country suffer an amputation because of sepsis and that 60 percent of those amputations are preventable. Dr. John Griswold is a surgeon at UMC and Director of the Clinical Research Institute at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. He was consulted on Lucretia’s case when she came to the hospital. He says her situation was unusual because it was a worst case scenario, aside from death. He hopes others will be more aware of the danger and seek medical treatment before the illness is advanced. He says, “If a patient or person or family can recognize the problem and get to the hospital quickly, that’s the start of beating sepsis.”
According to Sepsis Alliance, the acronym to remember is Time: Does the patient have a Temperature, Infection, Mental decline (confused, sleepy, difficult to rouse), and Extremely ill. Dr. Griswold says, “A lot of these patients say they were thinking they were going to die, sure something is very wrong.” He says all those are signs that you need to see a doctor fast.
Lucretia has a much different attitude after surviving sepsis. She says, “I had to lose my hands and feet to save my life.”
Michael, her husband says, “Not once was she every angry.” And Lucretia agrees, “I was confused but I wasn't angry.” Instead, they both say they just wanted to know the next step in continuing with their life.
Now, after 5 months of Physical therapy and lots of encouragement from all over the city, Lucretia has learned to use her prosthetic legs and feel the joy of being able to push a cart around Walmart or Home Depot. She says, “I’ll be so tired when I get home. But I’m so excited that I can walk!” She has also learned how to put on her own make-up, while Michael says he will gladly paint the toenails on her new silicone feet.
The latest advance in her physical therapy is the use of new prosthetic arms.
Thanks to amazing science, she can turn on the electrodes in her arm and is now learning to use her new hands.
Dawson Alexander, an Occupational Therapist, says “So, she has to think – extend my wrist- and when she does, the electrode will pick up that signal and cause the hand to open.”
We watched as Lucretia worked to pick up a wooden peg and drop it in another hole. It took a lot of concentration, but she did it! Dawson says, “She has exceeded expectations. It’s all in her mind and in her heart. She has a big heart.”
Physical therapy coms with a lot of minor milestones. But for Lucretia, each is fuel for a brighter future. You can tell by the smile she wears everywhere she goes. She says, “I see myself in a year, people not even knowing that I have a handicap.”
And through it all, she keeps her sense of humor. She laughed when she told us, “When I woke up, I couldn’t get my hands this close together. But watch this trick.” You’ll have to check out her trick in the video. Nobody laughed more than she did at what she has learned to do. And Michael laughs too. He is her rock… with a soft side.
I asked Michael, “What are the moments that make you tear up?”
He said, “Every moment. She is the most awesome person. She is my soul mate.”
Married only 4 years, their plans for the future are bigger than ever.
Lucretia says, “I always knew I had a good life. But now, I’m even more aware of that.”
For more information on sepsis, check out the interview with Dr. John Griswold.
Also, this link will take you to more about Sepsis Alliance https://www.sepsis.org/sepsis-basics/symptoms/