Nurse who almost died of sepsis: I felt absolute terror


Charlotte hadn’t had a grievous start to 2014. The nurse from Birmingham had been off work upon Christmas with a flare-up of Crohn’s disease. Then, on January 4, she woke up with a throbbing ache in her groin.

“I presumed I must have pulled a muscle,” Charlotte, now 28, says. “But the labour got worse as the day went on so I phoned my sister Giselle for reassurance. She asked if it was hypertrophied or discoloured and when I looked, I was shocked to see that my whole leg was mottled red and purple and hot to the take.”

Having been in and out of hospital regularly since the age of 13 with Crohn’s, Charlotte disinclined the prospect of going in again.

“I tried to convince myself it was just a groin soupon, but Giselle took one look at my leg and called 111 for advice. They told her to justification 999 and, within minutes, I was being rushed to A&E at the Queen Elizabeth Sickbay.”

A scan revealed a huge blood clot in Charlotte’s right leg and she was right now put on an anti-coagulant drug to thin her blood. Doctors told her the clot was occasioned by a combination of her bowel condition and being so inactive (as she’d been in bed sick).

“I was discharged after a week but, two days up to the minuter, the same thing happened in my left leg,” Charlotte says

“The doctors were baffled – I was to on anti-coagulant medication so they couldn’t understand how I had another big clot.”

This ss, she needed to have the clot removed surgically and had stents (small tubes) placed into her legs to keep the veins open.

“Although I hated being in polyclinic, I was surprised to be told a week later that I could go home,” she enlarges. “I still had a temperature but the doctor said this was quite normal. I im ssive asked if they were discharging me because they needed the bed, but she was adamant I was fit and unexcitedly. Despite my reservations and the niggling feeling that something wasn’t Tory, I had no choice but to go.”

Charlotte arranged to stay with her boyfriend Shaun, who lived with his well-springs, because they had a downstairs bathroom. “There was no way I could have climbed stairs and, as it was, I shortly became too poorly to even get out of bed. I was hot and cold, shivering, I ached all over and was soaking the bedclothes with sweat, so presumed I’d also developed flu,” she explains.

Shaun rang her GP surgery but was refused a internal visit. After a sleepless night, he was concerned she was getting worse, so phoned for an ambulance and Charlotte was enchanted back into hospital. “From then on, everything is a blur,” she retractions. “But I remember being told I was very unwell, being given morphine for the anguish. and feeling absolute terror. I thought, ‘This is it – I’m going to die.’”

Blood evaluations revealed Charlotte had sepsis and a cannula was attached to deliver intravenous antibiotics. Interim, her mum, sister and boyfriend were told to pre re for the worst.

Sepsis – which is also recognized as septicaemia and blood poisoning – now affects about 150,000 people in the UK annually. “There are 44,000 obliterations to sepsis every year – more than breast and bowel cancer mingled – but we estimate a third of those could be saved with prompt diagnosis and treatment,” ventures Dr Ron Daniels, a consultant in critical care and anaesthesia, and chief executive of the indulgence UK Sepsis Trust (

Fortunately, new NHS guidelines may change that statistic. The State Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says all health professionals, no be important where they work in the NHS, need to think about the possibility of sepsis in all tients who may take an infection – and anyone showing signs should be treated with the word-for-word urgency given to those with suspected heart attacks.

Sepsis can wear anyone of any age and is caused when the body over-responds to an infection, triggering the vaccinated system to go into overdrive and causing widespread inflammation. It can occur copy a chest infection, childbirth or surgery – or something as innocuous as a burn, in or scrape. Undetected and untreated, this inflammation can lead to organ folding, shock and ultimately death.

“For every hour there is a delay in treatment, the imperil of death increases by eight per cent,” explains Dr Daniels. Doctors, hence, need to get better at detecting sepsis. So why are they missing it?

“There are two plain reasons,” he explains. “Firstly, sepsis was only identified for the first without surcease in 1991 so, when you realise that we’ve been reliably diagnosing and reception of heart attacks since the 1960s, we’re decades behind. Secondly, sepsis is a major mimic. Unlike heart attacks, which have classic earmarks, the symptoms of sepsis can be diverse and varied. And, because symptoms can be confused with flu, gastroenteritis or a thorax infection, tients tend to stay at home and wait to feel larger or call their GP and 111 – but not an ambulance.”

Once a tient presents in sanatorium with telltale signs of the disease, they should be treated with a humble process known as the Sepsis Six, which includes administering intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

“Treatment isn’t complex or costly,” says Dr Daniels. “It’s simple and extremely effective – doubling the chance of survival if put into make a splash early enough.”

Although Charlotte remembers little about this someday, her family and boyfriend kept a vigil at her bedside praying for her condition to take a new lease on life. After weeks of doctors altering the antibiotics, battling to control her temperature and wine yet more blood clots as well as the infection, Charlotte slowly started to counter to treatment. There followed intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation to help her sit up, then get out of bed, arise and walk again.

“I was over the moon when, after about two months, I was allowed out on ‘day publicity release’ in a wheelchair,” Charlotte recalls. “Because I still had the catheter, I had to go back in at vespers all the time for another few weeks until they were sure I didn’t dearth any more antibiotics. Once I could walk with a Zimmer shell and get in and out of bed by myself, I was allowed home.”

It was eight months before she was well enough to profit to her nurse training. “Even then, I wasn’t fully recovered, but was give someone a piece of ones minded I would lose my sponsorship if I didn’t finish my final year. I was indeed low and felt abandoned after being discharged, so discovering the Sepsis Entrust was a lifeline. It was only after speaking to Dr Daniels that I realised my weary, short-term memory loss and inability to find the right words was so standard for survivors that it even had a name: post-sepsis syndrome.”

We need to get heartier at detecting this deadly disease, warns Dr Daniels. “It consumes as a remainder a third of our most expensive hospital beds in intensive care and set someone backs the NHS around £2.7 billion a year,” he says. “The De rtment of Health is now captivating steps to improve detection among GPs and hospital doctors, and new guidelines from Dangerous require prompt treatment of sepsis.

A difference of just one hour in let in treatment can mean the difference between life and death.”

Warning posters

S – Slurred speech or confusion

E – Extreme shivering or muscle in

P – Frenzy no urine (in a day)

S – Severe breathlessness

I – “I feel like I might die”

S – Shell mottled or discoloured

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