In 2017, Alycia Kradas, a healthy 27 year old, had just begun her new life. She had a new job, dog and apartment in Massachusetts.
After settling in, she started feeling the symptoms of a sinus infection – headache, fever and congestion. Her symptoms worsened. One doctor believed it was mono, another thought pneumonia. Eventually, she was sent to the hospital with a heart rate peaking at 170 beats per minute. After 11 days of concern and agony, it was finally clear: Kradas had sepsis.
Sepsis begins as the immune system’s response to an infection. The body releases chemicals to fight said infection, but those chemicals can lead to inflammation, constricting blood flow to organs and becoming sepsis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sepsis is the leading cause of death in hospitals, with 1.7 million adults developing sepsis and approximately 270,000 dying from it every year.
Kradas was released from the hospital and had seemingly overcome the battle. She didn’t know that the nightmare had only just begun.
Kradas’ fatigue was overwhelming. Her headaches persisted and her joints pained. At times she felt paralyzed.
She had to give up her new life and move in with her parents in Harbeson.
The search for what was wrong never ended. Kradas eventually pinpointed Post-Sepsis Syndrome, a condition that affects 50 percent of sepsis survivors, according to sepsis.org.
Post-sepsis syndrome is a little-researched condition. While, on the surface, it seems obvious that your organs would be recovering from the body-shocking infection, there are still things doctors cannot explain. Post-sepsis can lead to an array of symptoms, from hallucinations to chronic pain.
Kradas is already on year two of the condition, and she spoke of her symptoms and depression, saying, “Post-sepsis is incredibly debilitating. I couldn’t stand on my own two feet. I couldn’t walk 10 feet. I still can’t really cook, clean, or handle my own dog. I’m still not working … I was plucked out of society. I don’t have a life anymore, and I’m only 29. Of course that all brings depression, as well.”
The timetable is not consistent. Kradas has spoken to sepsis survivors that experienced post-sepsis anywhere from five to 10 years. Doctors are unsure of how to treat it.
Sepsis is already enough of a medical mystery, leaving post-sepsis overlooked. Kradas has seen 10 specialists in different fields, and all of them have been unable to provide any definite relief. Some are even unaware that post-sepsis exists.
Kradas said: “I just spoke to a doctor the other day and told her I had post-sepsis syndrome. She looked at me like I had six heads … There’s been times where I wished a doctor would tell me something and be wrong than just leave me in the dark. It’s been a guessing game … I’m still so exhausted all of the time.”
Kradas has found some improvement through physical therapy, but while she has days of energy, she backslides to being unable to lift her arms.
She has also experienced PTSD from the situation, a common occurrence amongst post-sepsis sufferers. She’s afraid that any type of sickness will set her back to square one.
But there is an end in sight, and Kradas plans of making something of the situation. She wants to start a support group in Delaware and take her story around the world.
She said: “I’m trying to make a difference with this. I want to be an advocate and a support system. I want to be there for families that don’t know what to do, or people that don’t have the families to help.
“I have a new life right now and I don’t want to jump back into my old job. I have a real calling now … It irritates me to the moon that there’s not enough information out there and these poor people are going through this alone.”