Sepsis is often misdiagnosed, particularly in its early stages, with even medical professionals failing to recognise the symptoms and wrongly identifying it as ‘flu or pneumonia. That is what happened to Scott Ross, from Wishaw, and it was only when his condition rapidly deteriorated and he was rushed to Wishaw General Hospital that a consultant realised he had sepsis. In the space of four days, Scott had gone from being told he had ‘flu to wondering if he had an illness which was going to kill him.
Scott, 43, said: “I was feeling poorly over the Easter weekend last year (2019) and on Easter Monday attended the out of hours service where the doctor diagnosed ‘flu and prescribed Tammyflu. But the symptoms didn’t feel like ‘flu and I had a chronic pain in my right side which wouldn’t go away.
“I had to sleep sitting up on the sofa as it seemed to be the only way to get some rest – lying down wasn’t an option due to my breathing issue and the pain. After a few days my wife contacted my GP as the symptoms didn’t change and I was prescribed Co-codomal for the pain.
“I perked up slightly on the Wednesday but the next day I deteriorated rapidly and by that point was struggling to walk. The Emergency Services were called and I was admitted to Wishaw General Hospital.
“After some investigation I was told I had pneumonia but a short while after that a consultant informed me I had sepsis. Essentially, I had a chest infection that wasn’t treated which then morphed into pneumonia and then led to sepsis in my chest.”
“I immediately asked if the condition was reversable and was told my kidneys and liver were slowly shutting down due to the infection. It was the first time I had any direct thoughts that an illness may actually kill me which was a long way off being told I had flu less than four days previously.”
The diagnosis of sepsis was accompanied by a warning from the consultant who assured Scott he would recover but “it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better”.
Scott was hospitalised for two weeks and while in intensive care, as well as being treated with various drugs, he had a chest drain inserted which removed about two litres of pus.
Because of the seriousness of the treatment, Scott didn’t see his two young daughters for a week. He said: “I knew that while they didn’t know all that was going on they were missing me and were upset I wasn’t around.
“Sharon, my wife, was great. She took on a lot (not that she had much choice!) but she did so with a massive amount of compassion and patience. I also had great support from my mum and brother.
My employers were also excellent and I couldn’t have asked for more support and understanding from the moment Sharon passed on the news. They were in daily contact offering help and making sure she was ok as well.”
Although now recovered and back at work, sepsis has left its mark Scott. “I have issues with my general fitness, especially due to my right lung capacity and how that can affect my breathing if I exert myself.
“I have also lost most of the hearing in my right ear which won’t return which was put down to either the infection or the strong drugs I was administered. I am coping with the hearing loss ok and have been told I need a hearing aid. I’ve also lost some of the feeling in both of my thighs – no chronic pain but they can cause me a problem if I walk long distances.”
Scott has an important message to anyone who suspects they may have contracted sepsis. “I had no idea what sepsis was before I was diagnosed but there is so much information out there that can make a huge difference to a person’s life if people understand the symptoms and just as importantly the fact sepsis can present itself as many other illnesses.
“It’s a perfect storm for the body to cope with and the more knowledge people have the easier early diagnosis and treatment will become.
“I only learned about Sepsis Research (FEAT) after my illness. It is doing important work increasing awareness about the signs and risk associated with sepsis and raising vital funds for research into better ways to treat it
“Sepsis can mask itself as so many other different conditions and it’s reassuring to an extent the condition is now being more widely discussed.”