What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is a serious complication of an infection. Without quick treatment, sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Anyone can develop sepsis after an injury or minor infection, although some people are more vulnerable. At least 46,000 people die every year as a result of the condition.
Read Alun’s story:
Most people have heard of sepsis and know that it is a serious life threatening illness. Like most people, I thought that sepsis was not something that I would ever need to worry about. Even now, it surprises me to write words like ‘I was treated for sepsis’ and ‘I am fortunate to be here to tell the tale’. Looking back at my experience, two things strike me. Firstly the speed at which my health deteriorated and secondly no one told me I had sepsis – it really doesn’t matter what it’s called when the priority is to pump you full of antibiotics as soon as possible! As it is World Sepsis Day, I thought I would share my experience in the hope that it will raise a little more awareness and encourage people to take their health seriously and take rapid action.
Earlier this year, I was enjoying a lovely weekend away when I nicked my finger with a sharp knife whilst preparing a cooked breakfast (with hindsight I can confirm that fry ups are bad for you!). The mark on my finger was about the size of a prong on a fork and it would not be an understatement to say that it was almost unnoticeable. I washed my finger and put a plaster on it, thinking that even this was a bit over the top. I did not think about the finger again until 48 hours later, on Monday morning, when my finger started to throb a little. I applied some antiseptic cream and another plaster and merrily went off to work.
By late morning, it had got worse so I popped into the local minor injuries unit for some advice. They pointed out to me that the veins on the back of my hand had gone ‘a bit red’ and that I should keep an eye on this. They helpfully used a marker pen on my hand to show where the red had got to, telling me that if it went any higher up my arm or I felt hot or cold I should go to A&E. I returned to work with some antibiotics, thinking that they would ‘kick in’ before home time and I would be on the mend.
Fast forward and at around 4pm that day I found myself staggering into A&E, alternating between a fever and shivers, feeling like all I wanted to do was go to sleep. I am sure that if I had made the decision to go A&E any later, I’d have had to be taken in by ambulance!
There were around 25 people waiting in my local A&E department. I sat down for less than a minute before I was asked to come through to the treatment area. Knowing a little about how triage works, this was both reassuring and a little frightening. Within about ten mins of arrival in A&E I was hooked up to IV antibiotics and paracetamol. My temperature was literally off the charts so I had a fan to help cool me down. Later that night I was admitted to a ward and eventually returned home on the Thursday of that week, thus easily qualifying as the longest commute home I have ever had! During this period I was treated with three different types of antibiotics via almost constant IV. The drugs continued for another week after discharge and in all, I had to take two weeks off work. I felt unwell for at least a month afterwards, mainly as a side affect of the strong antibiotics.
According to the UK Sepsis Trust, there are around 250,000 cases of sepsis a year. I’ve shared my experience because whilst it was a difficult and frightening few days, the outcome was positive and I consider myself extremely lucky to have survived. The outcome could have been so different if I had delayed attending A&E. It doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened if I had followed my original plan for the day which was to go home and tough it out! If you have any concerns you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
You can find further information on the causes, symptoms and treatment for Sepsis on the NHS Direct website.