So I haven’t written in a while. Anything that I’ve posted was scheduled more than 6 weeks ago and I’ve barely logged into my blog for over a month. You may have also seen my post over social media with a little catch-up of what’s been happening. But the bottom line is I’ve survived sepsis… twice in a month. Yep, I really wasn’t very well! As a midwife, I have helped care for women with sepsis but I genuinely never thought I would fall ill with it, with no obvious cause, on a sunny and uneventful Sunday afternoon. Grab a cuppa because this is going to be a long one! This is my sepsis story.
It started off in the morning just feeling like I was coming down with a cold, I was expecting it as Mr Mumsy had been full of one just three days before. I took two co-codamol and went for a nap, afterwards, I felt so much better so ended up taking Isabelle to town for a walk and a bit of window shopping. I began to feel rotten again when my next dose of analgesia was due so I dutifully swallowed some more painkillers down and, once again, felt better for a bit.
About 7 pm I went off to bed early to try and tackle the cold before I went to work the next day. Except about an hour after I started to get severe stomach pains and terrible shivers. I was so SO cold and, considering it’s been a heatwave for about 50 weeks, I really shouldn’t have been. I ended up calling my husband on the phone to come up to me for help. It was really clear that something was happening and it wasn’t just a normal viral infection. I took my final allowed dose of pain relief (for the day) and waited a bit longer.
Another hour after, I was now throwing up and the pain wasn’t even touched with the strong dose co-codamol I’d taken. We “um’ed and ah’ed” as to what we should do. In the end we had to get my Dad to drive 15 miles over to us to take me to hospital, as my husband had to stay at home to look after Isabelle. 111 were useless and the GP that called even said I wasn’t of concern to them and they would see me about 6 hours later. In hindsight, maybe an ambulance would’ve been more appropriate as I was so so ill, however, you never know that at the time.
I got to the hospital and went straight in to see the nurse, there was no messing about and within 15 minutes I was admitted with IV antibiotics and blood tests sent for analysis. I had a temperature of 39.5, low BP and a raised pulse of 140. I was also not going for a wee often enough, I only realised this once they’d asked, the only time I’d been to the loo that day was when I woke up.
I was then watched in their high-risk A&E bay so that someone always had eyes on me, but before long I was taken for a chest x-ray and admitted to the ward.
Whilst on the ward is where I really struggled with the sepsis. I was having severe pain and rigours – which are whole body shivering-like shakes that are involuntary. They are caused by your body temperature and immune system desperately trying to fight off the infection and are a serious concern. It’s not just feeling a bit shivery, it’s a classic sign of very severe infection. I was shaking so much I genuinely thought I was going to break my teeth and nothing would stop them so I just lay shaking for hours and hours. My fevers were like a rollercoaster peaking and dropping within minutes of each other and at the beginning, untreatable despite all the medication going through my veins.
The pain was unimaginable, every single muscle in my body hurt, and not just aching, but true searing pain. I was on morphine and that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t get comfortable, yet I couldn’t move through the exhaustion, so I just lay there still. I was so doped up that I was drowsy and involuntarily dipping in and out of sleep. I know that changed consciousness is a symptom of sepsis, however, it was hard to tell if this was due to the infection or the levels of morphine for me, I guess we’ll never know about that one. There were talks of catheterising me and I was on high observation from the nurses and doctors, checking that no further deterioration was happening.
My symptoms remained the same for the next few days and spent all that time with drips hooked up, morphine on tap and antibiotic cocktails that would make me feel even more nauseous than the infection made me. I needed assistance to get to the loo and I couldn’t even shower unaided. To be honest, I don’t clearly remember those days and they all blend into one. After a barrage of tests and scans it was found I was septic because of an infection starting in my gallbladder and 30 small loose stones within it.
Eventually, the antibiotics started to work, my fever dropped and my BP stabilised, I had avoided Intensive Care – the thing I was most scared of happening, and once I was well enough I was taken into theatre to have my gallbladder removed with keyhole surgery. I was then sent home with more antibiotics and some paracetamol to recover. Which, let’s face it, wasn’t exactly enough considering how I had been.
We then fast forward three weeks, and I woke up in the morning with exactly the same symptoms as before except the pain started in my lower abdomen. I was shaking and feverish, along with the whole body aches and feeling utterly dreadful. This time I recognised the symptoms straight away and we headed straight for A&E. Once again, I went straight in and straight to a bed to be hooked up to drips of antibiotics and pain relief. CT scans were taken, along with all the blood tests, and I was admitted for sepsis again.
The second episode was much the same as the first, searing pain in my whole body – especially my lower right abdomen, low BP, high temperature and very high pulse. I was nauseous and in a bad way, this time I had a full spectrum of antibiotics immediately and the sepsis started to improve within three days. It was THEN found I had either appendicitis or mesenteric adenitis. They performed another keyhole surgery and removed my appendix on the 6th day and I went home, once more with antibiotics and pain relief.
I am recovering well now and heading back to work next week. I have to say it was the scariest episode of my life and I was frightened more so by my own knowledge of what sepsis was and the risks. If you or someone you love, have any of these symptoms, get checked out immediately. If I had waited, I don’t know if my story would’ve been the same and prompt treatment is absolutely essential.
Early symptoms of sepsis in adults (taken from the NHS website):
- a high temperature (fever) or low body temperature
- chills and shivering
- a fast heartbeat
- fast breathing
And signs of severe sepsis:
- feeling dizzy or faint
- a change in mental state – such as confusion or disorientation
- nausea and vomiting
- slurred speech
- severe muscle pain
- severe breathlessness
- less urine production than normal – for example, not urinating for a day
- cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin
- loss of consciousness
If you’ve got this far, you’re a better person than me, but this was my sepsis story and thank you for reading.
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