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Sepsis

My partner was diagnosed with sepsis and was hospitalised for a spell. Educational Life discuss the NHS treatment received and the symptoms to look for

What a fortnight it has been. Each one of us is guilty of taking our loved ones and our health for granted from time to time and I will put my hand up and say that just recently I had been doing this. Until I had a short, sharp shock back to reality. It’s reminded me who and what matter in the world.

In the space of 9 hours he had gone from, just a little run down and tired, to having, what seemed like gastroenteritis, to being hospitalised with suspected sepsis and fearing the worst. It happened that quickly.

The only reason I had called 111 for the emergency doctor was because of the seizures, his deliriousness and frightening colouring. As a precaution. We all know that when someone is suffering from something as infectious as a gastro bug you do not take them to a hospital or a GP where you risk infecting others. The ambulance service was sent out and a saline IV and anti-sickness medication were administered to prevent further dehydration and he was monitored from the comfort of our sofa by our wonderful and very talented paramedics. Once satisfied that, at that point, he did not need to go to hospital and was feeling somewhat better, the paramedic left, instructing me to call the GP once the surgery was open and that if he seized again, developed photosensitivity or any rashes I should call again without hesitation. He genuinely seemed better – just a little incoherent, weak, and sore all over. I watched as he had fitful sleep hoping that the worst was over.

First thing in the morning, a telephone consultation was booked with the GP. At the point of calling, he seemed ok, much better than before the anti-sickness and saline – but still a weird colour, poorly, sore, and extremely tired. But by the time the GP call came through a couple of hours later, he was laying on the floor of our toilet.

Once again, he was unable to talk easily, was shaking all over, was sensitive to light and he was struggling to move and couldn’t lift his limbs properly – was this a side effect of the bug? Was it extreme exhaustion? I knew he wasn’t right and I was very worried.

The GP advised me to hang up and call 999. Sepsis had not occurred to me until the telephone operators were asking questions and the call had been lost. I redialled and they found us listed under ‘[Name] – suspected sepsis.’

Again, the ambulance crew were amazing. My hats go off to them and I cannot thank them enough. The nurses and medical team were incredible from start to finish, and I would like to give a special mention to

AAU at the QEQM Hospital, particularly Nurses Kyle and Chelsea who exemplify what an excellent nurse should be. Their bedside manners were truly inspiring, friendly, chatty, kind, and gentle; willing to take the time to explain everything to us and to make difficult decisions and carry them through. If it hadn’t have been for Kyle the sepsis screen would not have been carried out as quickly and the treatment window may have been missed. Both nurses kept a close eye on their patient and listened to me, took in my responses to things and were just phenomenal. We all know that nursing staff are being pushed to their limits, with ever increasing patient numbers and paperwork but they still cared. They still took an interest and thanks to them my other half’s illness was caught so early on that he was treated immediately and able to go home the day after admission.

I firmly believe that it was thanks to their quick action that he is home. It is why his latest sepsis screen has come back clear and why he is recovering, slowly but surely.

 

What is sepsis?

(UK Sepsis Trust , 2012)

An infection in the blood, most commonly caused by lung infections (pneumonia), water infections, infections in wounds, bites or the joints and problems like burst ulcers.

Sepsis can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and death, especially if not recognized early and treated promptly.

Sepsis accounts for 44,000 deaths annually in the UK. That’s more than bowel cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer put together.

This means that a person dies from sepsis every 5 minutes in the UK. That’s 18 people die during a normal football match.

The good news is, life-saving treatment for sepsis is often relatively straightforward. Early recognition, and getting basic treatments including antibiotics and fluids into the patient within the first hour, can halt the progression of sepsis and hugely improve outcomes for patients.

 Antibiotics can cause harm if given inappropriately. In the case of sepsis, however, they are the single most important life-saving measure.

We recommend a set of treatments, developed by the UK Sepsis Trust; known as the ‘Sepsis Six’. These six interventions can be administered by junior nurses and doctors and have been shown to double the chance of survival.

 

For more information, to join the Sepsis UK campaign or to donate please visit www.sepsistrust.org

Symptoms of Sepsis

 Call 999 immediately if you develop any or one of the following:

Sepsis UK Trust – Symptoms in children

 

S lurred speech or confusion

E xtreme shivering or muscle pain

P assing no urine (in a day)

S evere breathlessness

I  t feels like you’re going to die

S kin mottled or discoloured

If you have any questions please contact the UK Sepsis Trust

www.sepsistrust.org

0800 3896255

 

In fact, it has not been until he has been home that any of us have had the time to digest just how lucky he was. There are horrifying stories on the internet and sepsis is slowly being reported on in the main stream media. The UK Sepsis Trust was so helpful. They explained everything from a medical perspective as well as how my partner would be recovering physically, emotionally, and psychologically and what I can do to support him and what to do to expect.

More than that though, they listened to me. Writing this blog was more difficult than I had anticipated and I find myself very fearful at times. It may sound daft. It wasn’t me who was sick. I had called the helpline on the premise of research for the magazine but found that I needed answers to questions for which there had been no time in the hospital.  Questions about how best to support him now and why this happened? It was lovely to hear that they are available for him to talk to, confidentially and frankly about anything to do with his recovery, but also for anyone who has questions. The information documents came through and one is titled, “Sepsis: Survivors’ Information” that was quite striking. Very often we were saying “but it was caught early, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been” but that has no relation to the recovery time or the emotional and physical impact it has had or will continue to have for a while because he had it. It caused its damage but got treated in enough time to avoid further, more lasting damage.

I am so grateful. To see a very healthy and fit man struggle with extreme fatigue and loss of strength due to sepsis in a relatively short period of time really highlights why we need to be aware of this silent killer. Had it not have been caught so early the effects would have been further reaching. He would be much, much poorlier than he is. Even now he gets extremely tired, his muscles ache and his memory is hazy at times. All of his loved ones and work colleagues are keeping a close eye and are ready to tell him to rest when he is frustrated with himself and the recovery time.

*Please be aware that I am not a qualified medical professional. This blog is based on my experience and references official documents from the UK Sepsis Trust *

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