Taz' Story

Professional dancer Taz Hoesli’s life changed dramatically when she started to feel poorly in October 2022. It turns out she had an invasive Strep A infection which led to sepsis, and caused septic arthritis.

After a traumatic stay in ICU, she has been on a difficult recovery journey as she attempts to return to professional dance – and at the same time, she has made it her mission to educate others about sepsis…

Taz was preparing for a West End audition last October when she started to experience flu-like symptoms including cold sweats and shakes. Taz said: “I had an email from my agent saying I had this big audition on the Monday and I was like, I cannot miss this. I will drag myself there no matter what.”

She dragged herself to the audition, and despite her balance being off, was able to get through to the next round. When she got home she told her mum she thought she had pulled her hip flexor, a common injury for dancers. But the next morning, she woke up in excruciating pain that was now also in her clavicle. But again, Taz dragged herself into teaching despite feeling like she’d been beaten up as she didn’t want to let the kids down. She said: “I went in, still feeling really poorly and under the weather: dizzy, barely able to sit up, breathless.”

She woke up at 4am that night screaming in pain, and rang her mum who was in the room across the corridor and they called 111. The initial 111 handler said that it was likely just joint pain, and gave Taz strong pain killers. She rested up for a few days before the second round of the West End audition on the Friday, which dragged herself into London for from Oxford. She said: “I was dragging my leg along, out of breath. I could barely breathe when I was walking. I got to this audition and they were like, ‘You really don’t look very well’. And I was like, ‘I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m just a bit under the weather’. Anyway, on the way home from this audition, I collapsed in the train station from the pain.”

Luckily, Taz had a chaperone with her who got her home, and her mum picked her up and she went to bed. Her family have filled in the gaps in her memory, as what happened next is a blur for Taz. Her parents had been checking in on her, but she wasn’t eating or drinking, or passing urine, and was speaking nonsense so they rang 111 again. Taz said:

“To this day, I don’t know who this one female doctor was, but without a doubt she saved my life because she said ‘I don’t want to scare you, but I’m pretty sure she’s got most of the symptoms for sepsis.

“I’m going to call an ambulance and I want you to keep telling the ambulance staff you think it might be sepsis.’”

The family were taken to the hospital via ambulance, and Taz was eventually taken to a spare bed in resus after her oxygen levels dropped low. She was taken to intensive care after they were not able to successfully raise them. Taz said: “It all happened very quickly. They took me to intensive care, put me on the ventilator, the high flow oxygen, and they were pumping me full of antibiotics and obviously they were testing to find out what it was.”

Eventually, the lab results came back and it turned out that Taz had invasive Strep A that had caused sepsis, which had progressed to septic arthritis in her hip and clavicle. Once doctors knew that, they put her on the appropriate antibiotics. Taz said: “The pain in my hip and my shoulder, that was all to do with the sepsis.”

“They told me ‘You’ve got septic arthritis’, which at the time I was like, ‘Only old people get arthritis’.”

Taz said: “From there, there were lots of ups and downs in hospital. I was in ICU for a week. I had a point where I’d come off the oxygen, I was just on the oxygen through the nose and in the middle of the night, my oxygen just absolutely plummeted again. So they did a chest X-ray, put the ventilator back in, and they found out that my lungs had filled with fluid.”

Eventually, Taz was moved back onto the ward where she had her lines taken out, and was discharged home in early November. She said: “I’ve been recovering ever since. I returned to teaching three weeks after coming out of hospital, which in hindsight I have no idea how I did it. But at the same time, all the kids that I work with, they were absolutely incredible and they without a doubt got me through that first awful bit of recovery when you are like, ‘My life is never going to be the same’. They were cracking jokes and they were so understanding, they were absolutely amazing. Since then, I’ve been rehabilitating for getting back to professional dancing. But obviously, after a serious infection in the joint, it is not a quick process. I’m about seven and a half, eight months in now and fingers crossed we’re seeing the finish line.”

While in hospital, Taz came across the UK Sepsis Trust via a Google Search, which ended up being helpful when she found herself experiencing common recovery complications including hair loss. She said:

“When my hair started falling out, I was like, ‘That is the last straw’.”

“You never think how much your hair would affect you, but when it started falling out, I remember exactly it was on New Year’s Eve and I was dog sitting at a friend’s house and I was just having a shower and I literally brushed my hair and clumps were coming out of my hands and I was like, ‘Oh, no, I’m getting ill again,’ obviously not knowing that it was common. And luckily through the work of the UK Sepsis Trust and working in the support groups and speaking with the wonderful nurses, they were like, ‘This is completely normal’. And it was. Although it was horrible, it was very reassuring to have a community of people that were like, ‘This happened to me, but it grew back’ and honestly, what a whirlwind.”

After getting in touch initially to offer her support as a volunteer, Taz was signposted to our support services. She said: “I thought it would be like a paid service but obviously then I saw it was all free and I joined the Facebook group, and I joined my first support group in December. The relief I felt going on that support call: yes, it was emotional and yes, it’s a lot to take in, but I was like, ‘Finally, there’s some people that I can speak to and not feel like I’m being a burden or feel like I’m just talking into the abyss and everyone’s looking at me with glazed eyes’. I felt like as soon as the word sepsis comes out, everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, that’s scary, I’m just going to listen and not say anything’. So that was incredible.”

Taz benefitted from speaking to our amazing Support Nurses. She said:

“At the beginning of my recovery, before I sought out any mental health help, Oliver was absolutely incredible just being that person for me to vent to.”

“And he always had an answer to everything, even if it was ‘We don’t know right now, but we know for sure that there’s been so many people that have been through this.’”

It’s not just Taz who benefitted from UKST support services though; our resources have also been used to help her parents and friends. Taz said: “Lots of the resources have helped my parents as well understand it, because even though they were in hospital with me, they still didn’t get much information either. And I’ve used them a lot to explain to people. Even sending the link out to some friends and being like, ‘This is what I’ve been through in a nutshell, sorry, I can’t explain it for the 86,000 time. If you read this, you’ll understand a little bit of what I’m going through’.”

Although Taz is known as ‘Positive Polly’ among her friends and family, it hasn’t always been an easy journey – especially in the moments when her professional ambitions have been on the line. Taz said: “I can’t imagine life being the same as it was before. And I’ve had amazing family and friends around me, and they have been absolutely incredible in the fact that they’ve supported me throughout this whole thing. They’ve supported me throughout my temper tantrums and my crying and everything. And without them being there, I don’t know how anyone could do it without having a support network.”

Taz is now seeing a counsellor to help her deal with PTSD, and is working on things including triggering noises. She said: “I thought the only soldiers get PTSD. Just having a label for it is massively important for me.”

Having not known anything about sepsis prior to her experience, Taz was keen to share her sepsis story with other young people who may not think they are susceptible. As she continues on her recovery journey, Taz is now an active volunteer with UKST, and has helped share her experience by giving talks at a nurses conference in Oxford, and is also raising awareness on social media. Taz said: “I’ve been through an awful situation, but that now gives me the opportunity to help those around me. And of course, the amazing slogan, ‘Just Ask: Could it be sepsis?’ literally saved my life. I’m so lucky that that one doctor asked the question because I don’t even want to say it, but I would not be here right now if she hadn’t asked that question.”

Having had her life saved by our ‘Just Ask’ campaign, Taz is now urging others especially young people to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms of sepsis. She said: “Trust your body. I think that it’s a very common thing for young people to feel unconfident in their own opinion and to think ‘Oh, it can’t be that bad and I’m sure I’m fine’. And the second thing is it’s so easy to learn the symptoms. Obviously, the UK Sepsis Trust has amazing resources. It’s got the acronym for sepsis. You can just know that off the top of your head. And even if hopefully you never have to use it in your life, if one time, especially for young people moving out of home, going to university, if you notice one of those symptoms on yourself or for a friend asking that question like it did for me can literally save someone’s life. So I think that’s the main thing: trust your gut and be confident in asking that question.”

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