In February 2015, I was diagnosed with sepsis. A disease I knew nothing about – and one that nearly took my life.
I had been generally run down with lots of ulcers and colds from around November 2014. During these little illnesses I had lost my appetite, and sometimes I had so many ulcers that it was too painful to eat – so inevitably I started to lose weight. This then meant that I had even less immunity to fight the ulcers. It was almost as if my immune system had given up.
I suffered with Ulcerative colitis, a form of Inlammatory bowel disease, but it had been kept at bay for some time, so I knew it wasn’t that.
During the Christmas of 2014, and I was again very run down and poorly. There was still no improvement by the New Year and celebrating my sons first birthday was a real struggle.
Monday 26th January I had woken up with a very sore throat and I was feeling pretty lethargic. I had seen an out-of-hours doctor on the Sunday and I was told I had ‘a common cold’.
As I went on through the day I ended up feeling very poorly indeed and by the time my partner Michael was home from work around 5pm I was feeling very desperate and extremely weak. I had begun to throwing up blood and I was uncontrollably shaking.
He soon realised this was more than a ‘little illnesses’ I’d been suffering with over the last few months and so he rung 111 for advice. We were asked to go to the hospital to another out-of-hours doctor. The doctor soon realised I was suffering with more than a cold and sent me straight through to the A&E waiting room, where I began throwing up blood again and collapsed on a chair.
I was rushed into assessment and then to an emergency ward were I saw a lot of nurses and doctors and I was asked a lot of questions. I was hooked up to pain relief and antibiotics very quickly.
Fast forward 8 days and I had been on a ward and had been seen by various consultants single consultants in the hospital. But still, my illness remained a mystery.
I was finally sent home with a diagnosis of pneumonia, which had caused sepsis through my body.
I was 2 stone lighter on my return home, barely weighing 7 stone. My legs were like sticks and I could barely walk; I was so weak.
By February I had been pleased to be home and spending time with my family again. But the feeling was short-lived as I started to feel unwell again just weeks after leaving the hospital.
One weekend in March, I began to get a fever, but I just shrugged it off and went out that evening with the girls. I sat with a blanket around me the whole night and felt like something awful was creeping up on me.
I was right, on Tuesday 23rd March I had become a lot worse since the Saturday and I was struggling big time. I had a horrible fever and if I wasn’t shivering under 3 duvets I was sweating and unbearably hot, vomiting, exhausted, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was unable to think straight.
I called my partner and begged him to come from work,I couldn’t even cry as I had no strength left. He came home straight away and, terrified from the last experience, he called 111, who didn’t seem interested although he told them I had been treated for sepsis a month before.
They even refused to send an ambulance.
My lovely mum and dad came over and my dad sat with my son whilst Michael and my mum took me to the hospital. I don’t remember much from there.
I was taken straight to resuscitation and was given antibiotics and fluids and monitored very closely. I was taken to an emergency ward for the night and awoke to the intensive care consultant by my bed saying I would be going up there because I really needed their help.
In my head I remember thinking “Yes I do, please help me”.
I was taken up there shortly after and once I arrived on HDU I was surrounded by doctors and nurses all doing something different. I was so delirious it was almost as if I wasn’t even there.
I didn’t know it but I was in septic shock and my organs were beginning to fail. I had such low blood pressure that I only had blood circulating in my heart. I had oxygen helping me breathe, wires and machines everywhere, it was a very frightening place to be.
As the days passed I slowly started to respond to the antibiotics and fluids. My temperature stopped spiking and my blood pressure became stable. I didn’t realise how close I had been to dying,until I saw the consultant who told me I was an hour off my heart stopping and going into cardiac arrest.
It was very hard to take in. He explained to me the first time I was in hospital with sepsis that the infection from the pneumonia had never disappeared, which is why I had fallen so ill again.
After 10 days with the most incredible HDU staff I came home and this time I felt 100% better than I did the first time.
But I was now even thinner, weaker and even more terrified of getting Ill again.
My mum took a week off of work and helped me get my strength back and take care of my son. The following week she had to go back to work, I was alone and felt scared. Every slight cough or sore throat would send me into a frenzy thinking I was going to get sepsis again.
I battled to put the weight back on that I’d lost and kept myself healthy. But it was very hard, as I suffered with extreme fatigue, weakness, a lot of painful ulcers and picked up any bug going round.
Unfortunately due to the amount of antibiotics I was given in order to fight the sepsis it caused my underlying Ulcerative colitis to appear in full force. The Ulcerative colitis became so serious that in May 2015 I had to have my colon removed and have a stoma bag attached to my tummy for the rest of my life.
Sepsis has changed my life forever and I can’t believe something I had never even heard of has now defined the rest of life.
Awareness doesn’t just need to be raised it MUST be raised. Although I’m still suffering the aftermath of Sepsis I was one of the lucky ones that survived and I can see my son grow up,others aren’t so lucky.
Words by Stephanie Jennings