Early recognition is vital for survival says Pendle sepsis survivor and champion

Julie Carman
Julie Carman

A Pendle woman who almost died after contracting sepsis is now helping to raise awareness about the life-threatening illness.

Julie Carman, from Kelbrook, contracted the illness after a cycling accident back in 2008.

The 64-year-old retired NHS pharmaceutical technician was in hospital for a couple of months.

Julie was discharged from hospital and was recovering at home when she began to feel unwell again. She thought she had flu and dosed herself with paracetamol over the weekend thinking she was a bit run down.

However, by Monday she felt much worse and was taken to her surgery where she was diagnosed cellulitis and was referred back to her local hospital.

Julie said: “I was asked to go to A and E. Once there I was triaged and it was felt I had an infection but they were unclear whether the infection was in my leg or in my jaw. I had a number of injuries, fractures, and haematomas on my face, jaw, hips and legs, so I was passed between various departments and then sent to another hospital to get checked out by their Max/fax (maxillofacial) department.

“Although the need for antibiotics was mentioned on many occasions, none were given and I continued to deteriorate with a high temperature, rigours and vomiting. Eighteen hours after first presenting at my GP’s I was admitted to an emergency bed.

“Although I felt dreadful I enquired about the antibiotics as I had not been given any. They had not been written up so there was a further delay but eventually drips were put up and treatment started. After 10 days I was discharged on full bed rest and with my legs bandaged from ankle to thigh.

“A couple of days later the rigours started again so my husband took me back to the ward I had been discharged from a couple of days earlier but they said I needed to go to A and E. After a delay of approximately five hours I was seen, my legs were unwrapped and foul-smelling discharge poured from various crevices in my left leg.

“I was seen by an orthopaedic surgeon and IV antibiotics were started and I was told I would need an urgent operation to remove necrotic muscle and hopefully save my left leg. The necrotic muscle was removed and after another 10 days in hospital I was discharged. It took me a long time to fully recover.”

Julie realises how lucky she is to be alive and is now a champion for the UK Sepsis Trust and fundraises for the charity.

NHS East Lancashire CCG Governing Body heard Julie’s story at their Governing Body last week and also learned how the Pennine Lancashire health system is working hard to tackle sepsis in hospital and in the community.

Kathryn Lord, who is the Director of Quality and Chief Nurse representative on the Governing Body said: “Unfortunately Julie’s experience is very familiar and all too common. Everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms. People should seek medical help urgently if they suspect they have any of the following symptoms:

• 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

“It is best to be safe than sorry. Always ask the question, 'Could this be sepsis?’ People should always seek medical help even if they are not sure."

Early diagnosis and treating it quickly are the key to ensuring that people avoid the life-limiting damage it can cause, or worse.

Every 3.5 seconds, someone in the world dies of sepsis. In the UK alone, sepsis kills five people every hour. Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) is a life-threatening illness caused by your body's response to an infection or injury. With early diagnosis it can be treatable with the help of antibiotics.

Julie recently held a local coffee morning, raising £532.00, and also took part in the Great North Swim.

“Sepsis is serious; it can lead to organ failure and can be life threatening, but if it is caught early, the outlook is good for most patients. Friends and family know when something is not right with their dear one and I always say: “Listen to family and carers of the patient”, they know when their relative or person they are caring for is not their normal self.

“Sepsis requires early recognition and timely treatment. Treatment started 1 hour earlier can be the difference between life and death. Raising awareness, sharing information and increasing the knowledge of sepsis is the best way to help save people’s lives.”

Julie talks about the symptoms and the importance of early recognition of sepsis in a recent video. To view the video visit: https://youtu.be/ItqppcRQ1P8

Further details about the support groups and about sepsis can be found on The UK Sepsis Trust website at https://sepsistrust.org/