My name is Poppy, and I want to tell you my full story to make sure you know the signs of sepsis- it almost took my life.
I was 36 weeks pregnant. My breathing had been shallow for a week and it hurt to move; to describe the pain, it felt like I had been kicked in the ribs, like an awful stitch or heartburn every time I moved. It was becoming hard even just to sit up in bed in the morning because every moment sent ripples of pain through my body. (Sepsis and Pregnancy & Childbirth)
I knew something wasn’t right, so I went to Accident & Emergency (A&E) at hospital. An X-ray showed a shadow near the bottom of my left lung. The doctors thought it was lung compression due to carrying a big baby in my small body, as I’m only 5’1. I was sent home. A week later, at 37 weeks pregnant, nothing had improved.
I also had the liver disorder, Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), which is where the bile acids stop flowing into the liver, and build up in the body instead. It is common for babies to be induced at 37 weeks if the mother has ICP and medication is not managing the bile levels. My son was induced at 37 weeks.
This is where things became strange. After the birth I remember it was so hot- it felt like I was in a tropical heatwave – I believed I was in a medical tent in the middle of the desert, and I remember imagining those huge jungle fans swirling around on the ceiling. I started dropping out of reality. I went to my GP as I was feeling terrible. Blood tests scared my GP – infection markers were high and blood wouldn’t clot; she sent me back to hospital for follow up and the shadow (That had initially been spotted on that X-ray before my baby was born) remained – a lung specialist diagnosed pneumonia. (Sepsis and Pneumonia)
I took pneumonia medication for 9 days but felt no better. I remember breastfeeding my new-born baby feeling like my body wanted to die. I had no energy. The next morning I woke up freezing cold, in fleece pyjamas and dressing gown under the duvet telling my husband to turn up the heating. He told me it wasn’t cold at all, but I felt chilled to my bones. My whole body was shaking, like a seizure. It lasted about two minutes. We rang 111 and they told us to go to A&E at the hospital again; family came to look after my baby.
At the hospital, I drank two full bottles of water but couldn’t give a urine sample – this is a sign of sepsis, too; remember this one. Now and again, the ice cold seizures would wash over me and I would find myself debilitated, held in a state of shock. That day, I saw several consultants who couldn’t identify what the problem was and couldn’t understand why the pneumonia medication wasn’t working.
Finally an amazing doctor told me he thought the pneumonia was a ‘red herring’ and ordered a body scan. It showed a massive kidney abscess. My whole chest cavity was full of pus and my blood had become septic. The old term is blood poisoning. It happens when an infection is untreated. A kidney infection, weeks old by this point, had spread into my whole body. I went into a septic coma. I couldn’t speak, just look around.
I remember watching the man in the bed opposite me in intensive care get sicker and then die. I remember how the nice doctor with the bushy beard sat with that man in his final hours so he wasn’t alone when he died. I remember the man passed away, the doctor came to sit with me. Was I next?
I remember crying because I thought it was the end but I was so sick no tears came out. I remember wishing I just had more time. I thought I was about to die and I told my husband to take care of my children for me. Hallucinations continued and I became convinced the one nurse was tapping poison to the PICC (central) line going into my neck. I used to try and smile at her in the hope she would stop trying to kill me. (Sepsis and Hallucinations) I had blood transfusions and, days later, rehab to walk again.
My husband was amazing – he went to the supermarket and bought formula and bottles and kept my new-born baby alive in my absence. Being a mum recovering from sepsis wasn’t easy; I came home to a baby that I didn’t know, but with hard work I nurtured that bond back again. I took supplements to help build back my milk supply that had dried up from the intense medication the hospital had administered to blast the kidney infection.
And not a day goes by I’m not thankful for my life and the doctor who insisted it was a ‘red herring’ (his words) and pushed for more tests. I will always be grateful to all of the medical staff who helped me to get better, and to get my life back.
Read the details on this website and be wary that if you or someone isn’t getting better – it could be sepsis. Make sure you know the symptoms. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctors, could it be sepsis?
It still haunts me but I am one of the lucky ones.