Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) is the immune system’s overreaction to an infection. Normally, our immune system helps fight infections – but sometimes it attacks our body’s own organs and tissues. We do not yet know why the body reacts this way, which is what makes Sepsis so dangerous; if Sepsis isn’t treated immediately, it can result in organ failure and death. Yet with early diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics. During today's World Sepsis Day, events are taking place all over the world to help raise awareness for this silent illness. Below, we're sharing an interview with Sepsis survivor Julia, who will be giving us an insight into her own personal battle with the disease.
What were your symptoms?
I experienced breathlessness, lethargy/sleepiness and my body was unable to keep food or liquids down. I also felt extremely disorientated, with added slurred speech and memory loss.
At what point did you realise this could be serious, and go to hospital?
I collapsed, couldn’t breathe and became unconscious - so it got quite serious very fast. The paramedics with me were unable to take a blood sample as my veins and arteries had collapsed. After around 20 minutes of trying they gave up trying to find a vein and just focused on getting me to hospital as quickly as possible.
Were your symptoms obvious symptoms of Sepsis now that you think back?
Yes, they were. (For Sepsis symptoms in adults and children, visit the Sepsis Trust here)
What was going through your head when the doctors finally confirmed you had Sepsis?
Panic set in as they informed me I had only a 50/50 chance of surviving the operation. The infection spreading within my body was progressing at a quick rate - at this point, all my organs were shutting down due to doctors not diagnosing me quick enough from when my appendix burst. My body was full of e-coli and gangrene, and the infection had damaged my bowel, kidneys and ovaries. It was not looking good.
Were you told by medical professionals that is was something less serious in the beginning?
I was told by 2 separate GPs to go home and take paracetamol. I was even told by another that she thought I had simple Sepsis but still just told me to go home and take paracetamol! This wasn’t good enough, it should have been dealt with and further tests should have been taken there and then - especially after she assumed I had Sepsis.
Do you think Sepsis is talked about enough?
Definitely not. It needs to be spoken about more because people die of this every day, whether it’s because of a misdiagnosis, lack of tests or minimal awareness to the public/ healthcare professionals.
When you were diagnosed with this infection, were you able to receive antibiotic help or was it more complicated from the time you found out?
Unfortunately, I was too far gone by that point. It’s strange to think Sepsis can be fixed with simple antibiotics if caught quick enough after what I went through.
What would you suggest to people that think they or a loved one may be infected with Sepsis?
Even if you have the tiniest inkling that it could be Sepsis then get your health practitioner to check and check again. If you’re not happy with the response from your GP, you can always pop to the hospital if you’re very worried. Thinking back now, I wish I had.
Will you be spreading awareness for this year’s World Sepsis Day, if so, how?
I’ll be meeting with medical staff at Nottingham City Hospital to raise awareness about World Sepsis Day there.
How has being a survivor of the silent killer changed your life?
This disease has taken away the chance of me ever having children again, so I'm feeling extremely grateful to have my daughter. I’ve also experienced menopause earlier than most, as the doctors had to remove my ovaries during the process. I struggle to sleep and it’s hard for me to concentrate from day-to-day. I suffer with memory loss too. My self-confidence has taken a plunge and my trust in medical professionals has been questioned.
For more information or if you would like to read another Sepsis story please visit our feature for last year's World Sepsis Day here: World Sepsis Day: William's Story