“All the signs for sepsis were there but I didn’t know this back then” says Lauren Connelly. “Feeling cold and shivery, changes in skin colour, not passing urine, vomiting, confusion, and a racing heart rate are all the signs that I now know are indicative of sepsis.”
Lauren survived sepsis thanks to her boyfriend who reacted to her deteriorating condition by taking her straight to hospital and a nurse who immediately recognised sepsis and, as Lauren says, “essentially saved my life”.
Living in Preston and in her first year studying for a degree in Medical Sciences, Lauren was 23 and fit and well when sepsis struck.
She said: “I had felt unwell for a few days with cold-like symptoms, a sore throat and headaches. I was in the first year of my degree and had put my symptoms down to the late nights and being run down.
“It wasn’t until I woke in the night with excruciating pains in my throat and neck that I began to feel concerned. I thought I had a bad case of tonsillitis. Looking in the mirror my throat looked red and inflamed and there was slight swelling around my neck. The next morning I called 111 to get an appointment with the out of hours GP as it was a Sunday.”
All she was told, however, was to take mild pain relief, drink fluids and contact her usual GP the following day.
But as Sunday worn on, Lauren began to feel worse. “I felt extremely cold and despite being under a heated blanket and duvet I could not get warm. I couldn’t swallow any water to take pain relief or to hydrate myself. My boyfriend, Tony, suggested we call 111 again. I was asked if I had a fever and if my chest felt particularly warm but I felt so cold I said I had no fever. I was told to wait for a call and if there were any appointments available the hospital would call me, and fortunately they did.”
However, the appointment wasn’t scheduled until later that night and during the next hour her condition deteriorated so drastically Tony took her straight to the Royal Preston Hospital.
Lauren said: “I had become confused and slurry, I was struggling to breathe and the pain had spread. My entire body ached and I struggled to move from the car to the hospital entrance. As we entered, a receptionist noticed I was extremely unwell and a nurse immediately took my observations.
“My blood pressure was sitting around 70/40, I was tachycardic at 150bpm and my temperature was much higher than I had thought. I soon began vomiting and losing
consciousness. I was treated with IV antibiotics and fluids but all of the anti-sickness IVs I was given were not stopping the vomiting.
“Doctors sent me for a chest X-ray as they thought I had pneumonia. When Tony explained to them how much the pain in my throat had been causing me I was assessed by the ENT doctors who discovered I had severe bacterial pharyngitis that had developed into sepsis. I was kept in A&E for the rest of the night as I was given fluids to try to increase my blood pressure.
“The staff advised us that if it did not increase I would have to be transferred to intensive care as they were struggling to stabilise me. Following an assessment by intensive care my blood pressure had started to increase slightly and my temperature was also slowly reducing. Early that morning, I was admitted to a ward where I stayed for five days.
“When I was able to swallow and became more stable I was allowed to go home on oral antibiotics for a further 10 days. I had lost a lot of weight as I was unable to eat for a while and I had become very weak. It took about six weeks to feel able to complete daily tasks.
Shortly after this recovery period I was admitted to Chorley and South Ribble Hospital with a subsequent infection that was affecting my heart rhythm. This stay was short as the infection was caught early and again I was able to return home on oral antibiotics.”
Lauren still struggles with the aftermath from the severity of the throat infection but is able to manage the symptoms and keep infections at bay through medication.
She said: “I am lucky to have had my boyfriend take me to hospital when all I wanted to do was sleep and so grateful to the amazing nurse that recognised sepsis immediately and essentially saved my life. I am so thankful to have my condition managed the way it was.
“It is not an experience I will ever forget but I am blessed to have made such a fast recovery and learnt so much about sepsis. I am now nearing the final year of my degree in Medical Sciences and I have used this opportunity to present to my peers about the dangers of sepsis.”
Lauren added: “Awareness of sepsis and its symptoms can save lives and I urge people to support Sepsis Research FEAT as the only charity in the UK dedicated to raising funds for research into this potentially deadly illness and in its campaign to make more people aware of its symptoms.”