My sepsis story started in early June 2016. I had a painful buttock, but assumed it was a spot or infected hair follicle. It became incredibly painful – easily the worst pain I’ve ever known – so I went to the GP on the Wednesday who said he was worried and predicted that I’d end up in A&E.He did take my temperature but it was normal – although thinking about it I’d had a fever the day before which I definitely think was the onset. I’d also had a slight sore throat a few days earlier, which probably indicated that I had an infection.
The doctor gave me penicillin and pain killers, and I went home, but spent the next 2 days feeling really ill. I even called my mum and asked her to come and sit with me, I felt so queasy. For some reason I kept googling the symptoms of sepsis (or “septicaemia” as was the term I was more familiar with), and they did all sound familiar, but the contra-indications of the medicines I was on seemed to be the same, so I just put how I felt down the some strong drugs.
By this point my buttock was no longer just red, it had developed into a large abscess. My breathing was raspy (almost Darth Vader-esque), I felt confused, was constantly sleeping, pretty much hallucinating, knew I should eat but couldn’t and my hearing was sort-of echoey and really loud, I was wobbly and nauseous and extremely weak.
Come the Friday I really felt horrendous, so went to the local walk-in clinic by taxi. They instantly noticed my blood pressure was up, my breathing was shallow and fast, my temperature was high, my skin was pale and sticky – they couldn’t even get blood out of me to do the usual testing. The nurse liaised with Kingston Hospital and arranged for me to go home, pack a bag for a few nights’ stay, and get to A&E – armed with a letter saying I wasn’t to wait in reception to be seen, and had to go straight through
Upon arrival we waited, and waited, and on THREE occasions I had to tell the receptionist that just because I looked OK, I truly wasn’t. Finally we did manage to get seen, but this delay will always infuriate me – especially when you read that for every hour that sepsis goes undiagnosed your chance of death increases by 8%.
We did have a long wait to be seen once inside (many hours), but when the doctors came over, they arrived in their many, telling me my blood test results were those of someone really very critically ill, and none of them believing how normal I looked, -my CRP count was 231. No wonder the doctors were suddenly everywhere. They’d all said they couldn’t correlate me and my behaviour with those results.
My GP has told me that 70 years ago I may not have survived and if I had been older or less healthy it would have killed me for sure. I do think that living an active life, eating well and being 38 clearly all helped. The doctor who admitted me, and said I would need emergency surgery that night. I think I thought it was a joke, I couldn’t believe it was all so serious as I’d not heard much about sepsis before.
So after my first ever night in a hospital, and my first ever general anaesthetic, and I went home the next day. What has really struck me has been how little information I was given about aftercare. I had NO IDEA that this wound would need daily care, packing and treating. One of the nurses told me it was “a life-changing injury” and it’d be 3 months until it was healed. Thankfully by googling foods to help heal wounds and speaking to my nutritionist, the wound healed in about 6 weeks.
It was the nurses who told me I should be lying flat, doing nothing for 2 weeks. I had no idea of the weariness and fatigue I’d suffer for a good couple of months as it left my system. I left hospital so uninformed about what I should expect in terms of mental & physical healing. I had some extremely low moods in those weeks and months after. I’ve been reading about post-sepsis syndrome, and definitely think I have / had that. I am forever looking for signs that it’s come back, or worrying about little sensations and what they might be. And the lethargy described I certainly experienced, and I am usually the most dynamic and “out there” person. I try not to mull over what could have been, but thoughts come into your mind that you can’t shake off. It was a very close call indeed, and truly terrifying. I’ll never stop feeling lucky to still be here.