Working in the area of medical negligence I have gained an in depth knowledge of a variety of illnesses and have learnt from my clients to always trust your instincts. Never have I been more grateful for that knowledge then when my husband was taken unwell a few years ago. Knowing the signs of sepsis that day without a doubt saved his life.
On Saturday 24 January 2015 my husband returned from work complaining of feeling a little under the weather. That evening we went to the local theatre, with our daughter, and during the course of the evening he developed a cough and complained of feeling cold. I joked with him that evening about him suffering from ‘man flu’ and when we returned home he telephoned his work to advise he wouldn’t be in the next day. I knew at this stage he must have been feeling really unwell as I had never known him to take a day off sick but didn’t realise at the time how serious this was.
The next morning he felt so unwell he couldn’t get out of bed. He was complaining of feeling extremely cold and complained that his chest hurt when breathing so I telephoned the out of hours doctors. On mentioning his symptoms the call handler was concerned about his breathing pain and advised me that, rather than arranging for a doctor to visit as I had expected, they were going to call an ambulance. At the time I felt that we were wasting already limited NHS resources but were advised that given my husband’s symptoms, an ambulance would arrive.
Within a very short space of time an ambulance arrived and the crew of two paramedics examined my husband. He was complaining of shortness of breath, had a low temperature and generally felt unwell. He hadn’t gotten out of bed all morning and the ambulance crew concluded that as he hadn’t been to the toilet it was likely that he was suffering from a urinary tract infection. We were told that they would arrange for another attendance later that day to test a urine sample and the crew duly left.
As the day progressed my husband became progressively unwell. As well as complaining of feeling very cold, and being cold to touch, he became confused and disorientated. He complained of such severe pains in his legs that he begged me, in his confusion, to have them cut off. In addition he still hadn’t been to the toilet all day.
Despite having been told by the ambulance crew that a colleague would visit to test a urine sample within a few hours, 4 hours later they had not attended and by now I was extremely concerned. I was aware that the symptoms my husband was displaying were indicative of something much more serious than a urinary infection and indeed I had questioned this when first raised as a possible diagnosis by the ambulance crew.
I was so concerned that I telephoned 111 and was told that someone would be with him within two hours as they were busy. Despite knowing how unwell my husband was, and knowing this was very unlike him, I didn’t want to make a fuss and accepted this. I spoke to my husband and advised him that he needed to try and get to the toilet so we had a urine sample for the crew to test when they arrived and told him to let me know when he was ready.
Within half an hour of this phone call I heard a loud bang from upstairs and found my husband lying on the floor outside of the bedroom. He had collapsed and was barely conscious, he was incoherent and extremely cold to touch but was sweating profusely. I immediately telephoned an ambulance and on arrival the crew helped him into bed and within a short space of time decided he had to be taken to hospital as the crew members suspected he was suffering from sepsis.
On arrival at hospital my husband was immediately taken into resus where he lay shivering on the bed, confused and lying in the fetal position still complaining of unbearable pains in his legs.
Investigations quickly revealed that he was suffering from severe pneumonia and sepsis and he was taken to the Intensive Care Unit where he was placed into an induced coma to help his body fight infection.
Fortunately my husband was able to fight off the infection and, apart from initially suffering from some problems with his lungs has made a full recovery. However he is one of the lucky ones because he was diagnosed and treated in time.
Sadly clients who come to me after they, or a loved one have been affected by sepsis have often suffered devastating, life changing injuries as a result of a failure to diagnose sepsis, because the signs of sepsis have simply been missed. This is why Wolferstans are helping to support the Sepsis Trust UK in raising awareness of the signs of Sepsis.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) is the immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury. Normally our immune system fights infection but occasionally, it attacks our body’s own organs and tissues. If not treated immediately, sepsis can result in organ failure and death. Yet with early diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics.
Sepsis can initially look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. There is no one sign, and symptoms present differently between adults and children.
How to spot sepsis in adults
Seek medical help urgently if you (or another adult) develop any of these signs:
• Slurred speech or confusion
• Extreme shivering or muscle pain
• Passing no urine (in a day)
• Severe breathlessness
• It feels like you’re going to die
• Skin mottled or discoloured
How to spot sepsis in children
If your child is unwell with either a fever or very low temperature (or has had a fever in the last 24 hours), call 999 and just ask: could it be sepsis?
A child may have sepsis if he or she:
1. Is breathing very fast
2. Has a ‘fit’ or convulsion
3. Looks mottled, bluish, or pale
4. Has a rash that does not fade when you press it
5. Is very lethargic or difficult to wake
6. Feels abnormally cold to touch
A child under 5 may have sepsis if he or she:
1. Is not feeding
2. Is vomiting repeatedly
3. Has not passed urine for 12 hours
If you or a loved one have experienced a delay in diagnosis of sepsis, or are concerned about the treatment you received and would like to discuss this with me, with no obligation then please contact me:
Partner, Chartered Legal Executive, Head of Medical Negligence Department