My sepsis story started in January of 2014. I found out I was 7 weeks pregnant and my whole world started to fall apart. I was 20 years old, still living at home and barely earning enough in a full time job to support myself, never mind a child. I spoke with my parents and I decided the best option was to terminate the pregnancy.
Going through the process of that was scary alone, and I felt like such a let down. My mum was by my side the entire way and I went through with an early medical termination. I endured the agonising pain that came with it, as well as the clotting and blood shed. The nurses had prescribed me Co-codamol for the pain and it really helped a great deal. The following Monday I returned to work and was still suffering from excrutiating stomach cramps and pain. I felt horrid physically and by the next day I was so unwell that I didn’t go into work. I remember laying on my parents bed and crying in pain. It was horrific! I took a dose of Co-codamol and waited for that to work and within an hour I was asleep. I didn’t go into work on the Wednesday either but managed to muster up the willpower (with help of a hot water bottle!) before returning to work on Thursday. I did nothing but sleep that weekend and when Monday came around I felt okay.
It was a repeat of the previous week – I didn’t go into work on the Tuesday or Wednesday but went back in Thursday and Friday. I knew this was seriously ruining my probation period but the pain was that excrutiating that I could barely walk at times. The nurses from the hospital had warned me that the side effects could last up to four weeks so I continued to think that this was just side effects of the termination.
The following week was when it all kicked off. Tuesday, I headed back to my GP and he prescribed me Tramadol as the Co-codamol wasn’t effective anymore. I took one as soon as I’d got home and it completely wiped me out but the pain had deminished which was all I was looking for. I headed into work on Wednesday morning and took another dose of Tramadol, hoping that I’d catch the pain out before I got there but it was a stupid, stupid mistake. Due to my job being quite demanding and requiring me to be running around after different people, I took a turn for the worst. I started shaking, shivering, my face turned completely pale, my lips turned blue, I was nauseated and my heart rate was through the roof. My HR manager and Compliance officer were both ready to call for an ambulance and I told them not to, that i’d just get my dad to come collect me and I’d go home. Thinking about that now I feel really stupid for not letting them.
I got home around midday and my mum had just finished work. She had a duvet and pillow laid out for me on the couch so that she could keep a watchful eye on how I was. “I know you’re in a lot of pain, but are you still bleeding?”, she asked. I was stunned. I hadn’t even realised, in all the hysteria of feeling so horrible, that the bleeding had stopped. Surely if the shedding of my womb and the feotus had stopped, the pain should have stopped too? I then noticed that it wasn’t pain just localised to my lower abdomen, and that in fact, it was my entire abdomen. My mum started to get worried the further the day went on as I started to feel dizzy and I couldn’t even climb off the couch to go to the toilet. Then was our first trip to A&E.
We waited four hours in the A&E waiting room before we were seen that evening. I knew it’d be a long wait before we’d even set off, but now I know about the urgency of treatment when it comes to sepsis, it makes me feel a little bit sick. I laid down on the hospital bed as soon as we got to see the doctor and explained how I’d been feeling as well as the termination. He examined my stomach and took my observations, as well as tested a wee sample that I’d been asked to do. He told my mum that he believed the pain I was having was probably “psychological” and prescribed me more co-codamol.
I went home that night feeling horrible. How on earth could this pain be psychologic and why on earth would I want to do this to myself?
I didn’t return to work at all for the rest of the week and spent the entire time in bed. That weekend I was to head to Liverpool to visit my best friend at university, however, after reaching the train station I broke down in agonising pain and sobbed into my knees before calling my parents to come and collect me.
After spending the weekend in bed, my mum was getting increasingly more worried and increasingly more annoyed that I was still in so much pain so on Monday we took another trip to the GP. However, I couldn’t even get out of the car and begged my mum to borrow a wheelchair from the surgery. Unfortunately they didn’t have one and my dad had to carry me into the surgery. I sat shivering violently, my mouth dry and my stomach in agony in the waiting room with a room of eyes on me. “Oh love, you should be heading straight up to A&E!”, said one of the ladies waiting. “We tried last week but they sent her away with pain killers that no longer work for her”.
My mum was hoping for a referral straight to a ward and that’s just what she got. My GP my stomach and saw how much I was shivering before ringing the gynaecology ward at my local hospital. My parents took me straight there and after being examined, with my bloods and observations being taken, they admitted me to the ward. That night I had multiple tests done, as well as having multiple examinations of my uterus and scans of my abdomen.
I managed to get some sleep on the ward that night and by morning they had decided to put me onto some IV antibiotics. I remember feeling so well that day and speaking to my mum on the phone telling her that I was back to eating food and I could be home by the following morning.
What happened the evening will forever be a blur to me. Within a few hours of speaking to my mum, I was rushed to the ICU. The curtain was pulled around and some 10-15 doctors piled into the cubicle. One doctor was changing my gown, whilst a nurse was telling me exactly what was happening. “Your blood pressure is incredibly low, Danielle, and your respiratory rate is extremely high. We’re going to need to put a line into you that will monitor your heart”. I felt fine a few hours ago, what the hell had happened?
I wasn’t best pleased that the line they had to insert into me was to go through my jugular vein. I remember they had to insert another line into my left arm and I can’t quite remember what it was for. They then placed loads of patterned stickers all over my chest with wires coming from them, fitted me with another IV and fitted a cannular to me so I had more oxygen. My parents came to visit me that evening and I was completely not myself. I was in a lot of pain, I felt tired and my mouth was increasingly dry, but all I was allowed was the sponges on sticks to dip into water due to the fact I could need a scan/surgery at any point.
The consultant on the ward discussed with me and my parents that there was a high chance I could need surgery and they would decide that when my recent CT scan results and blood tests came back. That night I fell asleep watching the television, only to be woke up by my gynaecologist at around 4am.
“Danielle, hello. We’re going to take you down to theatre now. We’ve found abscess within your abdomen that needs to be removed as soon as possible. I have your mum on the phone if you’d like to have a quick chat whilst we get you ready to take you down there”.
I spoke to my mum for a while, her saying she’d stay awake until they called her again to let her know I was out of theatre.
I woke up three days later. According to the doctors, I had to be placed in an induced coma whilst my organs repaired themselves after they had started to fail. My parents told me that every single hour my blood was taken whilst I was in the intensive care unit, which I would have been horrified at had I been awake (I hate blood tests!) but which I’m not so glad for as they were very vigilant and made sure they monitored everything closely.
I wasn’t myself for at least 4-5 days after waking up; I’d started to hallucinate, mutter and my bodily functions were not normal. Not one of my doctors or nurses had mentioned sepsis until I was admitted back to the gynaecology ward where I was to stay for another 10 days. My consultant came to see me a few days after I was back on the ward (likely to be because I wasn’t in a mental state to discuss or remember anything they were to tell me about my situation).
“Danielle, do you have any idea what happened to you?”
“I just remember being in a lot of pain”
“Well, what we believe to have happened is that you had a cyst on your right ovary. It had become infected and burst, causing abscess within your abdomen. This then caused sepsis. You have been extremely unlucky Danielle. Extremely.” They then went on to tell me they had drained the abscess and removed my right ovary and fallopian tube.
My treatment was then followed up with another 10 days on the IV antibiotic, Tazocin, as well as regular blood tests and physioptherapy to get me walking again. It was discovered after a chest X-Ray that I had infact suffered a collapsed lung on my right side, which I also underwent physiotherapy for.
It’s the 10th March today and I’ve been home 11 days. I’ve had check-up already in which my consultant said that if I was going to relapse on the oral antibiotics, it would have happened already. The next step is completing my 14 day course of antibiotics (Clindamycin & Ciproflaxacin), which I finish in 3 days time. I’m extremely weak, my mood is up and down, I’m constantly tired and I can barely walk up the stairs without my legs hurting.
All in all I can say I’m very lucky to be alive right now. The doctors and nurses in the ICU were absolutely fantastic and quickly reacted to any tests results. I believe they knew to tests for sepsis but didn’t want to tell me until they were sure and I believe they treated it extremely fast and well. I’ll be scarred for life from this ordeal, both mentally but also physically and I’m really proud to have this scar. It’s around 4 inches long but it’s like a badge of pride. I survived sepsis. I managed to overcome a life threatening illness and I’m fighting back.