Highlighting World Sepsis Day: “If you are unsure, ask ‘Could it be sepsis?’, I didn’t”

Nicholas Johnson, IT Manager
14 September 2020
World sepsis day poster.
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Yesterday was World Sepsis Day, a global awareness day to highlight the dangers of sepsis and how to spot the signs so serious harm or worse can be prevented. In the UK, sepsis kills 48,000 people a year, more than bowel, prostate and breast cancer combined. I’m telling my story to raise awareness in the hope it could help someone avoid going through what me and my family suffered.

In February 2019 I was blue lighted into hospital with sepsis shock. I had multiple organ failure - my lungs, heart, bowel, kidneys, liver were ceasing to function.  

In the fortnight leading up to this, I had several health concerns which I and even my GP couldn’t connect.  

My foot was constantly cold, going ice white, I was breathless climbing stairs at work, my heartbeat would sometimes drop to 52 bpm. My stomach was bloated and had bouts of diarrhoea 

I went downhill: drowsy, sleeping, shivering, breathlessness, difficulty walking, stomach pain, diarrhoea, delirium. My wife Angie called out the paramedics and the next thing I knew I was waking up ten days later having been placed into an induced coma.

 

There were difficult conversations between medical consultants and my wife over those 10 days - amongst other things - they included the possible need for a heart transplant and removing my damaged foot due to the lack of oxygenated blood! I was in a bad way, but slowly my body began to heal and I woke up nine days later, a day before my birthday. I didn’t know at this stage how lucky or how critically ill I had been and still was. Things were on the up, no transplant or plastics were needed but I was still in critical care ITU. 

I lost over 20% of my body’s muscle mass during my month of critical care, even awake I had invasive investigations, assessments and continued treatment of my lungs, heart, kidneys and bowel due to sepsis shock with multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. I started physio with the aid of a walker, three physio nurses and a bottle of pure oxygen connected to my tube into my nose to breathe.   

 Post admission was a long struggle, small steps, positive thinking with the aim to get fitter and stronger than I was before. It took me a while to realise my recovery would take quite some time. A sobering reflection and a change in direction was needed, relieving the pressure and need to focus on small steps; walking a third of the garden as an objective. Not to be disappointed that I couldn’t. I can now walk 4.6 miles; my aim is 5 miles or to run more than 200 meters without the need for a sleep afterwards.  

 

All my organs recovered apart from my heart which was diagnosed as impaired heart muscle but within the last month, 17 months on from ICU admission it has recovered to low normal. This is thanks to exercise, positivity, family surveillance, medication, three heart procedures (two electric shocks and freezing of a heart area to -50 degrees), a dedicated heart community nurse, heart consultant, cardiology physio team, speech therapy for paralysis of the vocal chords (injury from intubation) and my GP. I consider myself very fortunate, I can now live a ‘normal’ life, however, running anywhere fast is currently off the agenda! 

So am I better…yes, 100% from my ICU admission but maybe only 80% of where I was before sepsis! I’m enjoying being back at work and grateful for the support from everyone at Amey – this was the final piece of the jigsaw for my recovery.  

Sepsis survivors can suffer from with physical, psychological and emotional challenges, recognised as post sepsis syndrome (PSS). If you or anyone you know needs support with PSS, please don’t suffer in silence. Talk about PSS and seek professional support to help you through it. Learn the signs of sepsis, 245,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with sepsis per year. If you are unsure, ask ‘Could it be sepsis?’, I didn’t.”  

What is sepsis? 

Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) is the immune systems overreaction to an infection or injury. Normally our immune system fights infection – but sometimesit attacks our bodys own organs and tissues. If not treated immediately, sepsis can result in organ failure and death. Yet with early diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics. Most infections (such as skin infections, pneumonia, urinary infections and many others) can lead to sepsis. It is responsible for 11 million deaths globally each year.  

Symptoms to look out for:  

  • Slurred speech or confusion 
  • Extreme shivering / muscle pain / fever 
  • Passing no urine all day 
  • Severe breathlessness 
  • It feels like you’re going to die 
  • Skin mottled or discoloured 

Prevention is better than cure 

Sepsis is the number one preventable cause of death worldwide – raising awareness of it, basic hygiene, vaccinations and early detection and intervention with antibiotics will save lives. 

A short video to watch and share 

Click here to watch a three minute film which explains what sepsis is. Please share this with your friends, family and colleagues to help raise awareness and save lives. 

Useful resources:

Just Ask Could it be Sepsis 

https://sepsistrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Just-Ask-Leaflet-DN10016-26082020.pdf 

Spotting Sepsis in Children 

https://sepsistrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Paediatric-Leaflets-DN10015-26082020-V4.pdf 

Recovery from Sepsis 

https://sepsistrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Recovery-After-Sepsis-Brochure-for-Web-Compressed-Final.pdf 

Sepsis Trust Supports Covid 19 Survivors 

https://sepsistrust.org/covid-19-recovery-response/ 

Sepsis Trust Resource Downloads Page 

https://sepsistrust.org/get-support/resources/ 

Sepsis Booklet 

https://sepsistrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/updatedNew-Booklet-27-RD.pdf 

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