SEPSIS kills more people in Scotland than breast and prostate cancer combined.
Those affected by the condition – in which the body’s response system to infection is to turn on its own tissues and organs – are often left with significant physical, psychological and social complications, ranging from chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, memory loss, limb amputations, seizures, kidney impairment and bowel problems.
Corinne Hutton thought she was just suffering from a bad cough in June 2013 – that was until she was sick all over her bedroom floor and worryingly there was a lot of blood in it.
Corinne said: “With a bit of persuasion, I agreed to call NHS 24 to ask for advice, as the doctor’s surgery is closed on a Saturday.
“They sounded unconcerned but suggested I go up to see them, to be safe.
“The journey was hot, and I was feverish and a bit faint, but I got there… just.
“I was taken straight in to a doctor who immediately asked me to move to a bed. I collapsed before reaching it. The last thing I remember was medics all around me.
“I had acute Pneumonia, flooded lungs, and a Streptococcal virus A (which apparently lives dormant in us all) in places it shouldn’t have been, and together they caused sepsis.
“My family were saying goodbye; I was being kept alive for my young brother, Scott, to arrive on a flight from Dubai; and there was less than a five per cent chance of me living.”
Fortunately, one doctor suggested they should try ECMO, and Corinne was flown to Leicester and hooked up to a rare machine – an ‘Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation’.
It does the work of the lungs and oxygenates the blood outside the body while chilling it to bring down body temperature.
Corinne spent two weeks there receiving treatment until she was stable enough to return to Paisley RAH Intensive Care.
That’s when they brought her slowly back to consciousness: “Only then was it explained to me exactly what my family had gone through. Not me, though. I’d slept through it all.
“There followed three weeks of great progress. I was still on life support machines, had a tracheotomy fitted, catheters, being drip-fed, could do nothing for myself, and couldn’t speak.”
There another bombshell: “When he reached my bedside, the consultant introduced my medical situation with these words, ‘Ms. Hutton you are to have your legs and hands amputated this week’. He may have gone on to say more, but that’s all I heard.
“I managed to survive sepsis, but lost my hands and legs.”
Recognising symptoms of sepsis could save a life
What is sepsis?
Put simply, it’s a life-threatening illness that arises when the human body’s response to infection spirals rapidly out of control and causes the body to injure its own tissues and organs.
It can be the result of any infection, but most commonly occurs in response to bacterial infections of the lungs, urinary tract, abdominal organs or skin and soft tissues.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can develop sepsis after a minor injury or infection. It can affect people of any age or condition of health.
What are the consequences?
Every four hours someone in Scotland dies of sepsis. Sepsis kills more people in Scotland than breast and prostate cancer combined. And it’s not just about the deaths. Sepsis is a life-changing illness.
Those patients who do survive sepsis are often left with significant physical, psychological and social complications ranging from chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, memory loss, limb amputations, seizures, kidney impairment and bowel problems.
What are the symptoms?
• Very high or low temperature
• Uncontrolled shivering
• Cold or blotchy hands and feet
• Not passing as much urine as normal
On their own, these symptoms can be indicators of other health problems but a combination of these symptoms becoming progressively worse means it is important to speak with a medical professional. Caught early, outcomes can be excellent. However, left unchecked, the patient’s condition is likely to rapidly progress to multiple-organ failure and death.
This is why early action is so important.
What to do if you suspect sepsis?
Act immediately – call NHS 24 on 111 and ask the question: “is it sepsis?”
If sepsis is suspected, you will usually be referred to hospital for further diagnosis and then treatment.
Time is critical when it comes to treating sepsis and every hour counts.
Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or someone you care about has a rapid progression of symptoms call 999.
Sepsis is an indiscriminate killer.
Recognising the symptoms of sepsis could save a life.
* For more: www.nhsinform.scot/sepsis