This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Monday, July 24, 2017

My Very Own Near Death Experience

Sepsis; with organ failure. That was the diagnosis of my condition shortly after I was wheeled into the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente's brand new San Diego Medical Center by the paramedics on the morning of Monday, 3 July (three weeks ago today). My wife was told by the physicians that it was touch-and-go. One of the many physicians who attended me told me later that 40 years ago it would have simply been game over. I was conscious and not in pain, but it wasn't apparent to me at the time how serious the situation was. It should have been, though, because my wife had found me on the floor of our bedroom, where I had dropped down after realizing that I was very light-headed and might faint. The paramedics who responded to her 911 call thought their blood pressure cuff had broken since they couldn't get a reading. The look on the faces of the ER doctor and nurses suggested that that they were expecting me to be near death--and I was, even if I didn't know it then.

My body had been take over by a massive skin infection (cellulitis) focused in the groin area that stopped my bladder from working, nearly squeezed the life out of my kidneys and liver and had precipitously dropped my blood pressure (to 60/30), and raised my heart rate to 177, with an added irregularity to the heart rate. They pumped me full of saline, antibiotics, probiotics, heart meds and other things, all of which saved my life. It included a bit of midnight surgery to install a "central line" (a tube) into my heart to administer meds directly to the heart.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control note that sepsis is more common among those under 1 and 65 and older, and more common among those with some kind of preexisting condition. While I am over 65, I do not have any chronic conditions that might predispose me to this. I was asked several times if I might have been bitten by a spider while working in the yard (not that I was aware of), or if I had traveled anywhere (yes, to Los Angeles a couple of weeks prior, but as different as LA may be from San Diego, it doesn't seem too dangerous!). None of the myriad tests/cultures they administered came up with any clue to the source.

NIH says this about the seriousness of sepsis:

Every year, severe sepsis strikes more than a million Americans.1 It’s been estimated that between 28 and 50 percent of these people die—far more than the number of U.S. deaths from prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined.
The number of sepsis cases per year has been on the rise in the United States. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including increased awareness and tracking of the condition, an aging population, the increased longevity of people with chronic diseases, the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms, an upsurge in invasive procedures and broader use of immunosuppressive and chemotherapeutic agents.
Or, to quote my wife, Deanna: "it is the most serious cause of death you've never heard of."

I will always be grateful to the many wonderful physicians and nurses at Kaiser Permanente who saved my life. The love of my life, Deanna, kept me going throughout my ten days in the hospital, staying with me in my hospital room all day and night, questioning and advocating on my behalf. She is my strength and I genuinely owe my life to her as much as to the medical staff. Our daughter drove down from Long Beach to help out while I was in the hospital (and later with her whole family), and our younger son, Greg (often mentioned in these blog posts), flew out to from North Carolina to assist--later to be joined by the rest of his family. Indeed, he was there to take me and Deanna to the Emergency Room three times after my discharge. Our older son, John (also often mentioned in these blog posts), flew out twice from Switzerland to help out (the second time with our oldest granddaughter), and we've had visits from our oldest grandson who is currently doing an internship in Santa Monica. The kids and grandkids have been champions through this ordeal.

Will that which didn't kill me make me stronger? I hope so, but it is still too soon to tell.


  1. Glad to hear about your recovery.

    My favorite reflection on mortality and life is rom Ecclesiastes 7. Very somber, very realist. You never heard it preached on in church...

    I commend it to you.

  2. So scary Dr. Weeks - I can't believe you had to go through this. So thankful that you came out the other end. Doug has been updating all of us and we are so relieved to hear you are on the mend.

    I've been hearing a couple stories on the radio about sepsis lately, and hopefully the awareness will gain more traction. Including this one:

    I had my own much smaller scare when Konrad was 2 months old and was admitted to the hospital with an infection. The Drs. were worried it might be sepsis, and when they described what could happen Grant and I were terrified. Thankfully it was a minor urinary tract infection, but still nothing to scoff at in one so young.

    In any case, glad to hear from you directly about the experience, and so happy that you got through this.

  3. So glad it sounds like you are on the mend. This is so scary - you have a great family! Wendy Manning