I came across this photo when we were uploading the backlog of stuff from our phone cameras to make albums for Christmas. This was taken around 3:30am on the 12th of April, 2016 on the labour ward of Barnet General Hospital in North London. I had just been readmitted with a 3 week old Wilde after Tim insisted I call the hospital to report my high temperature, chills and chattering teeth to the midwives on duty. It was Violet’s 6th birthday and even though I was sick my plan was to wait until after her pancakes were served and she was delivered to school to get checked out. So there I was in a delivery room with the motivational poster ‘BREATHE’ (yeah right) bemused and impatient waiting to be sent home. Only they didn’t send me home. They sent for the OBGYN and for oxygen, for a cannula and bags of fluid and antibiotics. I asked the nurge when I could go home. “It’s my daughter’s sixth birthday today. Do you think I will be able to go home soon? She gets up at 7:30.”
“I’m afraid you are very unwell. You will be here a few days at least. You do understand that you are very poorly, don’t you?”
I took this photo and Whatsapped Tim. “I think they are treating me for Sepsis.”
He knew. He knew when I couldn’t get warm and started to shake that I was in trouble. I thought it was just a nasty flu. I honestly would have stayed home but he saved my life. He knew the signs of Sepsis and just how serious it was. I could have died without immediate treatment.
It was another horrific day before the rigors and fever subsided and I started to feel ok. Then on the morning of 13 April I went into anaphylactic shock from the antibiotics and collapsed into my bed. 12 hours later I was persuaded to take another course of antibiotics by IV to keep the Sepsis at bay. We were winning but I was at risk of a relapse so I needed to complete a course if antibiotics. The drug was an exceptionally rare antibiotic called linezolid which is only used in the case of extreme drug allergies. Within minutes I had hives spreading across my skin. The hives swelled together and formed a plaque of red, angry, itching agony. My heart rate went up to 160. They called the anesthetist who in turn called ICU. A doctor came from ICU to monitor me. Tim held the baby and talked to me in hushed tones. “You have to relax. It’s going to be ok but I need you to relax.”
I was scared. Really, really scared by this point. This was the 3rd time in 24 hours I had almost died. After that I refused all medication but antihistamines and paracetamol and miraculously I got better. It was still another 48 hours before I could go home. It’s now 9 months, countless tests and 3 specialists later. We still have more questions than answers about what caused me to become so ill and what might have caused all my drug reactions but we are getting there.
I for one, have learned a great deal. In those hours in the hospital when I feared that I would never see my daughter or stepdaughter again it didn’t matter if my house was clean, if my job was cool or how much I weighed. It didn’t matter if I was fighting with someone or a client hadn’t paid an invoice or if there was nothing but pasta in the cupboard to last the whole week. All that mattered was our perfect, silly, gorgeous, odd little family.
No matter what happens in life I know now two things for sure.
1. I am, if nothing else, a survivor.
2. My children must always know how much they are loved.
To me 2016 will not just be the year that A.A. Gill, Lemmy, David Bowie and Prince died. It is the year that I lived. I nearly died but instead because I am blessed and loved and stubborn and so fucking lucky – I LIVED! And I will never, ever take my life for granted again.
I am grateful every day for all the people who pulled together to save my life. Tim, the NHS, and our beautiful kids whose love carried me through my darkest moments.
Happy New Year. Here’s hoping 2017 is a bit less exciting 😉
A person with Sepsis needs immediate treatment as it can cause organs to shut down within hours and can be deadly. This is what to look for.
You can find more information on the Sepsis Trust website.