Debbie Newton knows what it’s like to face serious health problems. She has diabetes which has caused nerve damage leading to a loss of feeling in her hands and toes and she developed osteomyelitis after a toe injury which, despite treatment, turned gangrenous. But nothing prepared her for the devastating effects of sepsis which left her fighting for her life leaving her to think “God knows how I survived”.
Debbie, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, started to feel unwell in July last year but couldn’t think of what was wrong.
She said: “I had a bath and got into bed and suddenly went cold and couldn’t stop my teeth chattering. I also had a terrific pain in my neck and couldn’t get comfy, I was a bit sick but didn’t think it was anything major. I thought I just had a bug.
“I woke very late next day at around 2pm which is not like me. I felt very weak and when I tried to walk from my bedroom I just couldn’t. My legs wouldn’t work and it seemed like I was drunk – it was awful. I felt like death warmed up.”
Debbie’s sister, Nicky Fellows, insisted she went immediately to her local Accident and Emergency Unit at the Samuel Johnson Community Hospital, Lichfield, where she was seen quickly by two nurses who told her they were calling an ambulance to take her to the larger Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield.
It was only when Debbie told them her husband, Tony, could drive her there that she got the first indication of how ill she was with the nurses telling her the ambulance was essential because she was “very, very sick” and then she heard them mention sepsis. She was blue-lighted to Good Hope Hospital and, for reassurance, was told the emergency lights were on because of heavy traffic, only later learning it was because her life was in danger.
Debbie said: “When I arrived at Good Hope, I remember a lovely doctor saying she had to protect my heart but they couldn’t get a cannula in or get any bloods as my veins had shut down. Then, after many people trying, she got a cannula in my neck which was uncomfortable but I wasn’t really with it by this time.
“My husband, sister and dad, Brian, were warned how ill I was and that they couldn’t make any promises. I was 50 and fighting for my life. I was very weak and my kidneys had closed down so I was put on dialysis.
“I was in intensive care for a week where I was treated so well by the medical and nursing team who constantly monitored me. Gradually, I started to feel better, my readings were improving and I was getting better.”
While in hospital Debbie saw others die from sepsis. She said: “It was frightening. I was a lucky one. God knows how I survived and I thank each and every one of the medical team for saving me.
Debbie added: “Although I was weak when I returned home, I gradually got back to my normal self. I never want to feel that ill again. Sepsis is a terrible disease and I urge everyone to make themselves aware of the symptoms and, if they have them, to get help immediately.
“If it hadn’t been for Nicky, I wouldn’t be here.
“I’d also like to ask people to support Sepsis Research (FEAT) as the only charity in the UK dedicated to raising funds for research into this potentially deadly illness so better treatment for it can be found as soon as possible.”