A Tribute to a Cool Uncle | A Sepsis Awareness Month Story
By: Tommy Hodge
September 13th 2021
When you have a small family, losing a piece can leave a very noticeable void in your life. That empty space was created when our Uncle Chuck was taken from us far too soon in December 2017 after he lost a brief, sudden battle with sepsis. He was just 60 years old.
Uncle Chuck was my mom’s youngest brother and he was absolutely hilarious. Our family has a very unique sense of humor, and I think we owe a lot of it to him. He loved to tease and poke fun, and if you hang out with my family for any amount of time, you will see that his wit was not lost with his passing. He was also very kind, he loved animals, and was very softhearted and loved kids. At least that’s how he made me feel as his nephew.
Chuck was a huge sports fan (especially Michigan/Detroit), and very meticulous about his collectibles. He had an amazing sports card collection, so amazing that when I was a little kid, I took a few cards…and he noticed immediately. Sorry again Uncle Chuck! He loved music and saw every classic rock band from Led Zeppelin to David Bowie to The Rolling Stones in concert. He loved NASCAR and had a Camaro. Yes, he was a very cool uncle for sure!
In late 2017, Chuck fell very ill and was admitted to the hospital. He had not taken great care of himself and had lost an extreme amount of weight. He had been very depressed for some time and had avoided family for a while and suddenly when we saw him after a span of time, we found that he was a shell of himself. He was dreadfully thin and weak and very ill. We were afraid to see how deteriorated he was from his former vibrant self. Many of his organs were at risk. His poor health impacted his heart and lungs and he had several procedures and was in and out of the hospital and in rehab for several months. This was going to be a long road, but we were not going to let him give up. We would help him in every way to regain his strength and health.
During this time, my mother (his big sister) and my sister (his niece) took care of him in every way possible. We didn’t want to lose him. When he wasn’t in the hospital, he lived with my mom and she fed him well and they spent time doing simple fun things and he seemed to come out of his sadness and really came back to life in every way, emotionally and physically. His doctors were amazed by his recovery and progress. He gained weight and strength and he looked like himself again and more than anything, he gained real joy in his life and was loving himself and living his life and making plans. It was so inspiring to all of us. Seeing him connect to people and things he loved was a joy for everyone. We all rallied for him.
Chuck was a fighter and he was pushing himself and it seemed like every day he was getting stronger and happier. Then, suddenly, months down the road, just when he seemed to be continually gaining strength and we were all sure he was well on his way to good health and a happy outcome, he had some complications and was back in the hospital. Within what seemed like days, he was so extremely ill and we were absolutely overwhelmed with a turn for the worst that we just couldn’t understand. One day he was fine and within days he was struggling to live. Finally, mom was told that her baby brother had sepsis and he would not recover. He was irreversibly ill. He was unable to communicate with anyone and was lost. She had to make a very hard decision and suddenly he was gone. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, he went from recovering to absolute despair and he was gone. The shock of this experience and the loss of someone who was steadily improving will never make sense.
When Chuck entered the hospital this last time, it felt like he could have and should have had more of a chance. With all that he had overcome and all the challenges he had fought through successfully, he deserved to win. For him to suddenly be robbed of every ounce of hope due to this singular disease, was truly beyond our ability to comprehend. How could this disease be impossible to fight?! Yes, we wish there had been a way for the hospital to detect sepsis and halt it before it took him over irreversibly. We will always be sad beyond measure that he was robbed of hope by this terrible disease.
We have all wished that the hospital could have been more proactive with their approach, which is vital with sepsis. With sepsis, each moment that passes, the chances increase for lifelong debilitating problems or even worse, death. But if a facility acts quickly, the right treatment can be provided and the infection can be stopped. Before our Uncle Chuck died from sepsis, I knew next to nothing about it. I am sure that many others are the same way. Our hope is that by sharing his story this month, we will increase awareness and prevent another family from losing a loved one who brought the world so much joy and who deserved to live far beyond 60 years young.
If you’re a hospital or organization looking for better and faster ways to detect sepsis, please reach out to us. We don’t want another potentially preventable death from sepsis to happen.