On August 3rd 2014 my Aunt, Stephanie Hamilton, died from Sepsis. She was 64. She was an adored mother, wife, aunt, sister and great aunt. It left our family utterly heartbroken.
We were on a family holiday in the charming Scottish seaside village of Elie in Fife 10 days previously. It was a family tradition and a week full of laughter, sun, adventure and very dear memories. My twins, then 5, loved every single minute. But Stephanie began to feel unwell and tired. She saw a local GP twice in the first 48 hours – and was told her vomiting, shivering, and leg pain was a gastric bug. Getting increasingly worried my uncle persuaded the surgery over the phone that she needed to get to hospital. The paramedics were told it was non-urgent and arrived 4 hours after being called by the GP surgery. She was blue-lighted into Kirkcaldy Hospital HDU when the paramedics recognised my aunt’s condition was now serious and her blood pressure was very low. She was transferred on Saturday 26th of July to ITU and by now was unconscious. Her consultant took a punt on the symptoms and pumped her full of anti-biotics. The staff there were incredible and I will be eternally grateful for the care and professionalism shown by the ITU staff and the paramedics. She went into multiple organ failure and we were told she had Invasive Strep A. She had sepsis. We were bewildered and frightened. The staff fought hard and Steph fought hard. 2 surgeons travelled from Ninewells Hospital in Dundee to assess whether surgery was an option. They steered my uncle and my 22 year old cousin towards not putting Stephanie through what would have been such massively invasive surgery with no real chance it would work.
Her breathing, kidneys, and lungs were all being supported by machines. And on Sunday August 3rd at 4.30pm she slipped away. Life changed forever.
It left us devastated, confused, angry and shell-shocked. We knew nothing about sepsis. We don’t know how she contracted it and we will never will. One possibility could be that she may have picked up an infection during recent dental surgery. But we’ll never know.
What we do know is that greater awareness of the symptoms and the signs of Sepsis COULD have saved her life. And that’s hard to live with. We first heard the word “sepsis” 3 days after she became ill. My family and I are determined to raise awareness of Sepsis. Greater awareness CAN save lives.
Since Steph died I have spoken to several friends who have lost loved ones to Sepsis. They too were largely unaware of the condition.
We miss Steph every day. I think of the sunshine filled happy days in Elie before she took ill. I think of her smiling whilst lying out on a rug in the garden of our holiday cottage with my twins running around her shrieking with delight.
I wish I didn’t have this story to tell. But I do. And it needs to be told. Please help raise awareness of Sepsis. I will keep doing so in Stephanie Hamilton’s memory.