Vicky Treasures Life After Near Death Experience with Sepsis

Vicky Autrey
September 15, 2023
Hanger Clinic

Sepsis nearly took Vicky’s life. She survived, but lost both her legs below the knee. Now, Vicky celebrates each day and lives an active life with her bilateral below-knee prostheses.

Vicky was at church one Sunday when she started to shake and feel very sick. Her husband, Gene, took her to the local hospital.

Battle with Sepsis

Vicky was then sent to Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. After arriving there, she medically died, but the resident refused to give up on her. He continued lifesaving efforts until Vicky’s heart started again. Fourteen days later, she came out of a coma on dialysis and a ventilator.

“My husband told me I had blockages, collapsed stents, a serious liver infection, and sepsis. Medicine was used to keep my blood pressure up for my heart and vital organs, which limited blood circulation to all my limbs. My husband and daughter massaged my limbs. Despite their best efforts, my legs did not fair well.”

First, Vicky had her toes and part of her feet amputated on both legs. She went home after that, waiting for her next scheduled amputation surgery. But she became very sick again. The next morning, her ankles and the rest of her feet were amputated. Then a week later, her legs were amputated below the knee.

Meeting My Prosthetist

During all of this, Vicky never lost faith.

“My husband was by my side the whole time, keeping my spirits up. When I was in the hospital, a prosthetist from Hanger Clinic came to my hospital room. We talked about my future and life as an amputee using prostheses.”

After therapy at the hospital, Vicky was sent home. At first, she was in a wheelchair, recovering from surgery and healing.

“We live in an old farmhouse and each door is a different size. My son remodeled the front door, hallways, and my bedroom. With the widened front door and bedroom door, I was able to enter and exit easily, accessing different areas of my house.”

Vicky then went to Hanger Clinic in Clayton, North Carolina, where she eventually met Rebecca Cook, CPO.

“We love Rebecca. Once I received my prostheses, she helped me learn how to use them, taking steps with the parallel bars, and then walking with crutches. I also worked with my physical therapist, learning how to pull myself up, sit down, and walk. I suffer from some balance issues, so I prefer to use the arm crutches. Rebecca continues to listen to what I need and make adjustments to help me feel more comfortable. She works with me each step of the way.”

Vicky Autry sepsis

Life Today

“It’s been four years since my amputation, and I still feel very fortunate to be alive. I can walk a good distance using my below-knee prostheses and arm crutches. I even try to make a statement with my prosthetic legs by not hiding them. I am able to do household chores, go to the store, help with my grandchildren, and still do the activities I love with my family. My favorite activity is camping. I have two children, their spouses, and five grandchildren, and we all like to camp together.

I even had the opportunity to try adaptive sports. I got talked into trying sled hockey. I played for a season and a half, and it was so enjoyable. I felt free being out there gliding across the ice, easily moving around. It almost made me feel like I was flying.

My nieces organize a 5k called the Mud Girl Run. My goal is to participate in the run, so I’ve been working on my balance and being more active.”

Words of Advice

During Sepsis Awareness Month, Vicky wanted to share these words of advice with others out there surviving from sepsis and those living with lower limb amputation.

“Keep every bit of faith you have. There is nothing you can change about the fact that you had an amputation. Yes, there are some hard days, but there are many opportunities out there. Take charge and go find them. If you can’t do something the way that you used to, look for the way you can do it today. And use your support system. They love you and are there to help.”

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