Despite amputations, Texas woman finds strength after sepsis

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Nearly one year ago a Texas mom unknowingly began the fight for her life.

“We were going out for a late lunch, waiting in line to get in the restaurant, and all of a sudden the fever just hit fast, like the flu,” said Heather Weikum. “Early Tuesday morning, after Mother’s Day, something in me said I have to go to the hospital, because it wasn’t right.”

Had that voice spoken any softer, Weikum wouldn’t have lived another day. She was rushed to Baylor Scott & White in Round Rock. By the time she arrived, her blood pressure was dangerously low.

“By the time I saw her, and even in front of my eyes, she continued to decompensate,” said Dr. Brandon Browne, who treated Weikum. “And even though we were doing everything we could, I suspect if just a few more hours passed without intervention, I doubt she would’ve made it.”

Dr. Browne says Weikum was in septic shock. Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to an infection, and can lead to death.

In Weikum’s case, doctors believe it may have been caused by an undetected urinary tract infection, or an abscess in her leg.

“I was really worried about her,” said Dr. Browne. “I remember going home and thinking, ‘I’m really worried about her, really worried she’s not going to make it.’”

While doctors were able to save Weikum’s life, sepsis forever changed it. Doctors were forced to amputate both of her legs, and eight of her fingers.

But Weikum chooses to focus on what she still has.

“Throughout all of this, I’ve always had the approach, I’m alive,” said Weikum. “I’m still me, I still make the same bad jokes, still working on getting back to work. I look a lot different, but it doesn’t mean I’m still not the same person.”

She’s now taking her life back one step at a time, undergoing specialized physical therapy at St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital. While learning how to walk is a difficult and painstaking task, her therapist says she’s making great strides.

“My limb loss is permanent, but hopefully, I haven’t lost my life, and I haven’t lost my family, and that’s all there is really.”

She hopes to spread awareness on how quickly sepsis can take over a person’s body.

Anyone can get sepsis from an infection, but the risk is higher in people with weakened immune systems, babies and young children, elderly people, and people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, AIDS, or cancer. If not treated quickly, sepsis can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Some of the symptoms include fever, trouble breathing, low blood pressure, a fast heart rate and even mental confusion.

Weikum considers herself lucky for being alive today, and throughout all the loss found strength to never stop looking forward.

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