Acronym’s Sam Hollingsworth Describes His Brush With Death and How To Avoid It

Manager, SEO

Sam Hollingsworth, Acronym’s Manager of SEO, recently endured a life-threatening experience stemming from what began as routine skin surgery. What should have been a straightforward procedure ended instead with a four-day induced coma, accompanied Samby a lifetime’s worth of anxiety for his loved ones. In this Q&A, Hollingsworth shares his experience in the hope that other people who find themselves in a similar situation can avoid what he went through.

Q: So you had a particularly bad February, right?

A: You could definitely say that.

Q: Please explain what happened.

A: I had several moles removed from my abdomen for skin biopsies and it turned out that two of them were potentially cancerous. So I scheduled minor surgeries to have both removed by a dermatologist and arrived for the first procedure in early January. Since I am allergic to penicillin and amoxicillin, I was given an alternative antibiotic to use called Ciprofloxacin, or Cipro, to prevent any type of infection.

Q: Everything seemed to be going pretty smooth at that point?

A: Yes. But after about halfway through the first antibiotic script, two pills a day for seven days, I began to feel flu-like sick. You know, coughing, sneezing, headaches and achy joints. I went to the hospital but they couldn’t find out what was wrong. They did many blood tests and learned that I had a rheumatoid factor, which is an antibody that is measurable in my blood. Still, the doctors couldn’t make a prognosis.

Q: But those symptoms passed and you waited for the second procedure?

A: The second surgery was on a Friday afternoon. After it was done, I hopped on a train to Saratoga Springs, New York and filled my prescription at a pharmacy. I took a pill that Friday night, two more on Saturday and one on Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon I was at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway with my girlfriend, playing (and winning) roulette when I began to feel sick again, but much worse.

Q: What were the symptoms?

A: I was dizzy and felt like my heart was going to stop at any moment. It was weird and scary. As my girlfriend and I walked to her car to take me to the hospital, I could barely walk and I wanted to vomit. She brought me to an urgent care facility where I was immediately put in a wheelchair and brought into the back to see doctors. This is kind of the last thing I completely remember, although I’ve since recalled—and learned—some other things that happened after that.

Q: What happened next?

A: My blood pressure was 70/30 at the urgent care facility, which is extremely low, so they rushed me an ambulance to a hospital. I was in the intensive care unit overnight Sunday into Monday, then Monday into Tuesday. I believe Tuesday is when I officially went into anaphylactic shock, then was put into a medically induced coma. I spent four days on life support.

Q: And you woke up on Friday the 13th?

A: Yeah. How about that? I had no idea I was asleep for four days until my family told me. I just thought I had slept overnight. I’ve heard some stories about what happened from my mom and dad, but it’s all pretty crazy and seems like a movie. As if that weren’t enough, I contracted pneumonia from being on life support, which I understand is pretty common.

Q: So you are okay now?

A: I’m expected to make a full recovery. Meanwhile, I’m trying to gain back the 23 pounds I lost and to regain my lung and muscle strength.

Q: So what can other people learn from your experience? 

A: It will probably never be proven 100% true, but most doctors I have seen say it was the Cipro that caused the anaphylactic shock. If I had known that the rheumatoid factor was directly tied to the Cipro the first day I felt soreness in my joints, I would have gone to the hospital right away. But I waited several days before going to the hospital in an attempt to shake what I thought was just a cold. That was a mistake.

You always have to know what you’re taking and what you’re potentially allergic to. I was given Cipro as an alternative to penicillin and/or amoxicillin because I am allergic to that family of antibiotics. But that’s an allergy that just makes me break out in minor hives. I’d obviously choose that over the agony I went through. Oftentimes, people think being sore or feeling groggy is strep throat or the flu. But sometimes it’s not. If you’re taking any medication, you should act a lot faster in getting medical attention, keeping in mind that if you don’t know your allergies to medication, which is often the case, anything could happen to you as a result of taking medication your body does not agree with.

Q: What happened at work while all of this was going on? 

A: I need to give a very big “thank you” to Acronym’s executive management team who were 100% supportive and continue to be, and to my SEO teammates, who went above and beyond to jump in and take over my client responsibilities so that nothing could fall through the cracks. I can’t thank everyone enough.

Q: Your social media network has been cheering you on as well.

A: It’s unbelievable. Something like 800 people “liked” or commented on my status when they learned I was finally on the mend. But nothing compares to the hundreds of Facebook posts, hundreds more Facebook messages, dozens of Twitter mentions, and even a couple LinkedIn messages I received while I was sick and recovering. Truly amazing, and definitely helped get me back on my feet!

Q: So what’s it feel like to be a social media superstar?

A: I’ll let you know when that happens.

Check out Sam’s column on Google’s Knowledge Graph.