On the 23rd of December 2015, it started off as a normal day for me. I had no idea this was the start of a Christmas from hell.
I first started to feel ill, when I was out with my family. I suddenly became freezing cold to the point my teeth were chattering. I had a really bad headache and overall just felt like I had never felt before. On the way home I threw up a few times and as soon as I got home I got in to bed, still dithering. During that night, I was sick on many occasions and just presumed I’d got a bad sickness bug or food poisoning.
The next morning, which was Christmas Eve, I can’t really remember too much as I was delirious. I hadn’t passed urine all night or morning, which, at the time I didn’t think much of. Like the night before, I stayed in bed most the morning but now the nausea had turned to diarrhoea. My legs were extremely weak and I couldn’t even stand up. My speech all morning had been slurred and I wasn’t sure what I was even saying.
After a number of strange things happening such as having a boiling hot bath in the dark and overall feeling strange within myself my mom noticed a mottled rash on my arm, which she thought was meningitis. She called my local doctors but they didn’t respond in time. I also wanted to be in darkness as I couldn’t bare the light, and I had a stiff neck which are also symptoms of meningitis. It was too late; I had already fainted on the bathroom floor and my lips and nose turned blue.
My mom immediately called the ambulance who arrived in a matter of minutes. They were extremely helpful and decided I needed to be rushed to hospital. I don’t remember much that happened as I was so poorly but I remember the paramedic gave me some antibiotics – which I later found out in fact saved my life.
When I arrived at A & E my blood pressure was extremely low at 40/20 and my temperature was dangerously high so I got rushed into resuscitation. I remember seeing a lot of doctors and nurses surrounding me and I heard another doctor on the phone to the microbiologists at another hospital discussing which antibiotic to use, as my blood was so badly poisoned. They said I needed a broad spectrum antibiotic but as my veins had collapsed they couldn’t get a cannula in anywhere. First they tried to put one in my feet which I remember being extremely painful. So they then had to put a jugular cannula in my neck.
As I was so poorly, the consultants were unable to do tests on me to find out what was actually wrong with me. I think at this point they knew I had sepsis because my blood was so badly poisoned.
I only remember little things from my first few days in hospital and I mostly only know what my family told me after.
My mom and dad were advised to get the rest of my family to the hospital as I was critically ill and may not make it through the night. Some of my major organs were beginning to become compromised due to the sepsis.
After a few hours in resuscitation and getting me as stabilised as I could be, I was eventually moved to Intensive Care. I was put on lots of medication such as Noradrenaline to increase my blood pressure, Potassium and many other types of painkillers. I had tubes coming out of me which was very uncomfortable and unpleasant for my family and friends to see.
Christmas Day I woke up feeling from what I remember, a little better, although I hadn’t slept very well. I was talking quite a lot but having to put my oxygen mask back on as I was struggling to breathe. I still had diarrhoea and was occasionally throwing up but not as much. Boxing day things took a turn for the worst and my health began to deteriorate. My breathing was becoming more and more shallow. Consultants said there was a build-up of fluid on my lungs due to the amount of medicine that I was receiving. During the day I was trying focus on my breathing whilst also trying to speak to my family. I was given a number of different masks to try which were really uncomfortable.
On the 27th, the consultants and my family made the decision to put me in an induced coma in order for me to get some rest and to improve my breathing. When I was told I felt scared but I knew it was the best thing for me. I was in it for less than 24 hours and when I woke up my breathing had massively improved. I was still too poorly though to even do simple things such as go on my phone or listen to music.
It was only when I got out of Intensive Care and on to the ward that I noticed my index finger on my right hand, the tip had turned black and I couldn’t move it. The doctors explained this was due to the blood poisoning and I was lucky that it only really attacked one finger as it’s common for people to lose arms and legs when fighting sepsis.
I had never really heard of sepsis until this happened to me. Neither me nor my family knew the symptoms which is why it is so important for people to be aware.
Luckily, I recovered quickly and was out of hospital within 10 days. However, many people aren’t as lucky as I was. Still to this day I don’t realise how close I was to losing my life.
A few days after coming out of hospital, my lab results came back showing that I had had the meningococcal septicaemia bacterial virus.
I am so grateful a year later to be happy and fully recovered apart from a few slight problems such as brittle hair, poor short term memory and not being able to use my right index finger due to the nerves being dead; but this is nothing to what could have been.
I would like to say a massive thank you to the paramedics, doctors, nurses and all other healthcare professions who were involved but also to my family, I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all of you. I will forever be grateful.
Ellie (age 19) Sepsis Survivor.