HOW SEPSIS CHANGED MY LIFE

How sepsis changed my life

“From a healthy 37-year-old, to battling for my life in a manner of days, sepsis took control of my body and wreaked havoc on me.”

 

I had never even heard of sepsis until the 18th of October last year, little knowing that it would ultimately result in me losing both of my legs and in hospital fighting for my life.

Sepsis has been all too accurately described as the silent killer. It’s hard to believe, but I was actually one of the lucky ones when you consider that of the 150,000 people that suffer sepsis every year in the UK, 44,000 don’t survive.

What was truly scary was the rapidness of my descent. From a healthy 37-year-old, to battling for my life in a matter of days, sepsis took control of my body and wreaked havoc on me, eventually leading doctors to amputate both of my legs below the knee.

But the good news is, 10 months on, I’m on the mend and ready to return to work.

My story in a nutshell

“I went home and the doctor came to see me about 8.30pm because I was just getting worse and worse - I went into hospital about midnight that night.”

For those who don’t know my story; I developed sepsis after walking my dog through the woods in late October last year. While playing around, as you do with puppies, I caught my knuckle on her tooth. Being a barely visible scratch, I thought nothing more of it.  Fast forward 24 hours and I was being bundled into an ambulance and rushed to hospital where I would spend the next 12 weeks in intensive care.

The original infection took hold, and my body’s reaction was to fight back, leading to the sepsis. Not long after arriving in hospital I went into septic shock, a frightening condition where the blood pressure drops rapidly, reducing the flow of oxygen to vital organs. Surviving this was my first challenge, with septic shock killing around 50% of recipients.

I spent the next few weeks slowly recovering from this but on the 9th of November my doctors decided that they had to amputate both of my legs below the knee. I continued to undergo treatment to my hands, fingers and ears but I made it home for Christmas.

It’s not all doom and gloom

“When I got my legs I was like ‘great, right, this is the next step’ it was a great feeling.”

I’m now in a position to return to work and I couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone who has taken an interest in my story. I received my prosthetic legs in February and most recently my new adapted car has arrived which has set me free.

Look, I’ve seen what people can do with their prosthetic legs these days, I mean people can run the 100m in under 11 seconds. I certainly can’t, but I’ve been truly inspired by people that can. What has happened to me, I’m not going to kid anyone, it’s life-changing and you have to learn different ways of doing pretty much everything you do.

To be honest, staying patient has been one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced during my recovery. First waiting for my prosthetics legs to arrive, and then waiting for the car, it has been tough. When I got my legs, my first thought was ‘great, right, this is the next step’ it was a great feeling.

After getting my legs I took a driving test in an adapted vehicle to drive utilising hand controls. I passed first time, ordered my car in February and it arrived in July. Now I have it and I’m on the road, it’s great, it has bought back a lot of independence.

Unfortunately I missed out on delivering my daughter to her prom because I didn’t have a car but I managed to take my two sons to their end of school leavers parties and I’ve now been able to take my daughter to university. Just being able to do those little things, my own things, has been great.

Back to the grind

It’s more than just earning a living, returning to work comes with a sense of self-worth, that I’m helping to provide for my children.

On Wednesday, August 9th, nine months to the day that I lost my lower legs, the occupational therapist declared me fit to return to work, that night we celebrated!

We agreed that three days a week would be a sensible plan to return to work so I’m heading back to work and will spend two days on the road visiting customers with another day in the office doing admin. We will review this after four weeks to see if I can take on a fourth day and again after four weeks to see if I can go back full time. I feel like I’ve got a lot of energy but my doctor said ‘look, don’t be fooling yourself, you will be tired’ but I’m optimistic and very keen to get back as soon as possible.

Getting back to normality is important for me. It’s normal for people to go to work five days a week and feel tired at the end of the day and I want to be normal and go to work like everybody else. More than that, I miss everybody. I’ve missed my customers and my colleagues. I’ve missed the banter and the challenges. It’s more than just earning a living, returning to work comes with a sense of self-worth, that I’m helping to provide for my children.

So I’ll see you all soon…

The thanks must go to…

“I knew that I had to get better to please everyone, to show that I was grateful for their support.”

I’ve had a lot of support through this; I couldn’t have done it alone. I’ve got great family, three children, a great girlfriend who has been there from the start and all of my colleagues at Brett Landscaping have been supporting me as well. I knew that I had to get better to please everyone, to show that I was grateful for their support.

The donations that have come through have been amazing and the money will enable me to get a second set of prosthetic legs when the time comes. From America, Canada friends and family, the donations came from everywhere. People I’ve never heard of were sending messages and getting in touch,

Companies from the Brett Approved Installers Scheme raised several thousand pounds in support. They could relate to me because I used to be a landscaper and build gardens myself. Once they heard the story and what had happened they all started to chip in. More recently the Brett Commercial Sales Team completed the Three Peaks Challenge and raised money from that as well which was nearly £3000, and still it continues to flood in.

My word of warning

I had never heard of sepsis, neither had my partner. Sepsis seems to be something that’s not really talked about and people need to be aware of what sepsis is and how severe it can be. We need to know what the symptoms look like and how important it is to catch it quickly and get treated.

Sepsis is more common in the UK than heart attacks and is often mistaken for other everyday illnesses like the flu. When recognised for what it is, timing is critical. While in a lot of instances it is caught quickly and treated before it’s too late, 26,500 people a year still suffer life-changing disabilities.

We need to be more aware of how easy this is to catch. It could be as simple as a rusty nail or cutting your finger on a piece of broken glass in the soil. It’s something the landscaping industry in general needs to aware of in particular. For 15 years I had my hands in the soil and who knows how many times I’ve cut myself. All you need is something like this to trigger it off so we need to be careful.

I implore you, reading this, to go one step further and visit the UK Sepsis Trust website which is raising the public awareness of sepsis and providing support for those, like me, affected by this savage condition.