If you have already read my birth story, you will know that after I gave birth to Max I had some complications with losing a lot of blood. I mention this again because this is paramount to my Sepsis story.
Something wasn’t right…
I started to feel unwell about an hour after we were discharged home with Max. When we left the hospital, my stomach felt really tender and I had some pain, but after having a baby that’s normal and I experienced it with the girls too. But as time went on, my back started to ache. After we were discharged we popped up to see the girls to introduce them to Max, and I remember even giving the girls a cuddle hurt my tummy, even if they touched it, it was sore! I still didn’t think much of it, after all I had just given birth to a 10lbs baby! After we saw the girls, we popped by Allen’s mums, and went to my sisters house so they could see Max through the car window, and on the way to my sisters, I just felt completed drained of any energy, and I remember texting her to ask her if she had any coke in the house, I felt like I just needed some sugar, after all we had hardly anything to eat the last three days. At the time, I really did just think that I was absolutely drained from everything I’d just gone through and needed some rest.
We got home, and we started to get everything sorted – just putting everything away and making sure that everything was tidy. The girls were due home later on that evening, and having a new born baby we knew it would end up being chaos! I made some bolognese for lunch as we hadn’t eaten anything proper the whole time we were in hospital! My tummy and back were still sore so I took some paracetamol and we got settled on the sofa just catching up on some TV. I felt so much better after the tablets had kicked in and some rest but that eventually wore off.
I was really sleepy…
Our friends, Mike and Angie came over to meet Max at around 6pm, they have a Labrador too, so Allen and Mile took her for a walk while me and Angie talked all things baby and she socked up the new born cuddles. Before they left they asked how I was and I said that I was just really sleepy, like I needed to go to sleep – Angie was like of course go for a nap while I have Max, but I said I couldn’t do that, after all she was my guest! I can remember I asked her if she was cold, as I started to feel really chilly even though the heating was on and she said that she felt fine. I probably should have but two and two together and known then that something wasn’t right, but I just thought that I had done too much and needed to go to bed. I had rang Allen’s dad and asked him if he was okay to keep the girls for an extra night because of how terrible I was feeling, and luckily it was absolutely fine!
After they left we headed upstairs, gave Max a bath, and I had a shower, but the whole time I was in the shower I just felt really weak and freezing cold. I didn’t even have the energy to get out the shower, and had to shout Allen to help me, and the whole walk from the bathroom to the bedroom (literally a two second walk), I was shaking and everything hurt! All I wanted to do at that point was get in to bed. I got myself in to my pyjamas and was still absolutely freezing so I threw my dressing down on. By this point Max was fast asleep so I got in to bed and found to so hard to keep my eyes open, let alone stay awake. I still thought at this point that I had just overdone it and I’d feel better in the morning after some rest.
How wrong was I?
I was woken up by Allen at about 6:15, and all I can remember was him asking me if I was okay and if my breathing was normal, as far as I was aware it was, but after waking up properly I was finding it a struggle to breathe properly. I was confused and disorientated. Allen helped meep as I needed to toilet, but as he did I fitted and collapsed. Allen managed to get me back on the bed and took my temperature – it was 42.2 degrees! When I came round I still felt freezing in myself, but I was like an oven to touch. Allen rang the Birthing Suite where I delivered Max, and they advised straight away to take me in for assessment.
He had to just drop me off because at this point we still had Max, it was around 6:30 by the time we got to the hospital. Thankfully the girls had spent the night at Allen’s dads. Luckily he was allowed to meet me on the ward after he had been to see the girls and sorted their childcare out, as once he was in he wasn’t allowed to leave again due to Covid restrictions. Anyway, I made my way up to Pregnancy Assessment Unit (PAU) by myself which was so terrifying. I don’t really remember my journey up there, it wasn’t long or far I just don’t remember much of it, I just remember feeling like I was going to pass out again at any second.
Minutes later I had 3 senior doctors flooding my room…
I got to PAU and straight away they put me in a room to be assessed. As soon as I got in there, I took my coat and shoes off and lay on the bed. I couldn’t keep my eyes open at all and all I wanted to do was to go to sleep. At 6:50 my observations were taken – my temperature was at 40.2, and my heart rate measured 144 beats per minute – I was tachycardic. To put this in to perspective, was is considered as a normal, healthy heartbeat is between 60-100 bpm. My oxygen levels were also very low, and my blood pressure very high. The midwife that was looking after me told me that the SHO had been phoned to come and review me as a matter of urgency. She was absolutely lovely, and I can’t thank her enough for making me feel at ease at one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. At this point she went and got me a gown at this point to help me get my temperature down, and to get a little more comfortable.
Minutes later, I had 3 senior doctors flooding my room, along with my midwife asking me questions and taking all sorts of observations. I had lots of bloods taken, blood cultures taken and I was hooked up to two lots of IV antibiotics, and fluids.
It wasn’t long before the Covid question was asked. I knew deep down it wasn’t Covid, although I had never had it before, I just KNEW that it wasn’t. But I gave them consent to take a swab, they also took a swab of my mouth, and also a swab of my perineum. This was because the midwife looking after me had checked my notes and saw that I had a tear with Max. I was told that I had a 1st degree tear with Max and that I didn’t need stitcher, however apparently that wasn’t right. I’d actually had a 2nd degree tear that they had incorrectly diagnosed, and therefore hadn’t been stitched up and they were worried that this had become infected.
At 7:35 my observations were taken again, my temperature was 40.3 and my heart rate was 117bpm, and again at 8am. I was on half hourly observations because of how poorly I was. By this point the IV antibiotics had started to work, and my temperature had dropped down to 37.2 and my heart rate was 119bpm. In between admission and 8am, I’d also had a catheter put in (the joys!). It was hard enough having to go through all of this on my own, but even harder to keep Allen updated via FaceTime and phone calls, all I wanted was him to be next to me.
Needing an ultrasound scan…
At around 10am a doctor came in and advised me that I would be going for an ultrasound scan on my abdomen. This was to check to see if there was anything out of the ordinary due to the high blood loss after going birth to Max. At around 10:20 the porter and the midwife helped me on to the wheelchair and I was wheeled down for my scan in my little gown and face mask. I am honestly so grateful for the kindness of the porter, he was lovely and kept me distracted just talking about general life. The ladies that did the scan were lovely and helped me to get on and off the wheelchair and bed, and made me feel at ease asking me about Max.
I arrived back in my room at about 11am, still non the wiser and had to wait for the doctor to come and let me know the outcome of the scan. When I arrived back in the room I had my observations done again – temperature had shot back up to 38.8. It was at about 11:30 that it was confirmed to be Sepsis. I was in shock – Sepsis was one of those things I’d heard about but never in a million years did I think I would have it! Me and Allen had watched episodes of 24 hours in A&E where both adults and children had had it, so I knew how serious it could be.
Allen arrived with me around 1pm, after sorting out the girls. We still had Max with us and it was so comforting to see them both considering the seriousness of the situation. We hadn’t decided whether to keep him with us with him only being a few days old, or to ask someone to look after him for the duration of my stay. I was completely out of it if I’m honest, so with me being so poorly AND being in the middle of the Covid pandemic, we decided that Max would be safer at home with his grandparents while I was in hospital. At around 5pm, my Dad came to pick him up from the hospital and dropped him off at Allen’s dads which was where the girls were at that point.
In between all of this, not long after Allen had arrived at roughly 1:30pm, I received the results from the scan that confirmed the infection had come from tissue in the womb which should have come out when I gave birth to Max a few days before. I was advised that I would need to have an operation to remove the infected tissue, and the infection. However, I was then told that I wouldn’t be able to have the operation until I had had a negative Covid test! The test that I was told would only take 2 hours to come back, still hadn’t come back yet! It was also at this time that I was told I wasn’t allowed anything to eat due to needing to have surgery.
The whole day is a complete blur to me as in all honesty I was completely out of it for most of it! I remember some bits, and others I was either out of it or asleep. I was classed as high dependency and was continuously monitored closely.
“I’m going to die”
It wasn’t until 8pm that day that the results from my Covid test came back – which were negative – and I was debriefed about the procedure and what it would entail, and also signed the consent form. After the doctors left the room it was only at THIS POINT that I was actually scared. Allen rang around everyone to let them know what was happening. He then rang the girls, and put the phone to my ear and one fo the moments that I will always be able to remember was hearing Mia’s voice saying “I love you Mummy”. I will never forget that moment, and it will always stay with me. The tears just started streaming down my face, I barely had the energy to talk, and had barely spoken to Allen all day, but at this point I turned to him and all I said was “I’m going to die”.
It might sound dramatic, but I genuinely didn’t think that I was going to make it, out of surgery or recover from Sepsis. I felt so incredibly poorly, and the thought of surgery just made it seem all that much more real. I hadn’t really had the chance to think about everything that had happened, but knowing I needed an operation made it feel all so final. So, with the memory of Mia saying “I love you Mummy” and giving Allen a cuddle, I was wheeled off to surgery at around 8:30pm.
I was placed in to critical care on a ventilator
The surgery went well, and following surgery I was placed in to critical care on a ventilator where I was watched around the clock. Once I cam round the first thing I asked for was for some juice. My mouth was so dry and my throat was sore from being on the ventilator.
A few hours later, I was reunited with Allen! I was so happy to see him and just to know that I was alive. As soon as I woke up after surgery, I felt so much better, literally like it had never happened! I had a sore throat, but my stomach didn’t have any pains, I was just super tired. I was debriefed and told that the operation went well, and they had decided on further inspection that they could operate via keyhole surgery which was a relief. I was put back on to IV antibiotics and paracetamol, and I still had the catheter in. I was still on regular observations, but the had changed to hourly.
The first thing I wanted to do was FaceTime the girls, and Max, which Allen did for me – he had to hold the phone as I was still weak, and had no energy or strength yet. It was honestly the best feeling in the world, seeing their little faces light up when they saw me, and it’s something I’ll treasure forever. After that, I was finally allowed some food which was tea and toast, and honestly it was the best meal I’ve ever had, even better than after birth!
I was advised that I would be staying in until my temperature was regulated and steady in a 24 hours period, and would have more bloods done in the morning. The midwife came in not long after I had finished my food and took me off my catheter, and helped me up to walk – after all I hadn’t walked in about 4 days!
I’d just given birth – this was to the way it was supposed to be!
The next 24 hours was pretty much just a day of observations, unfortunately during the night my temperature had spoken again, so I wasn’t getting home that day, which really set me off. I’d just been through a really terrifying ordeal, and had barely any sleep in the last 5 days, and I really missed my babies A LOT! I’d just given birth – this was to the way it was supposed to be! I was so emotional, I spent the day so down and upset. I am so lucky that I had Allen by my side, watching over me and keeping my going when I was at my lowest. He even spent most of his time sleeping on the hospital floor, just so he could be with me.
My temperature had spike again during the night, so the next day was just another day of observations.
Thankfully over the next night my temperature had settled and was steady over night, which meant the next day I was allowed to be discharged. I was sent home with oral antibiotics, which was to kill off the rest of the infection. I was so relived to be getting out of hospital and back to my babies! The one thing I will always remember, is that I was just discharged – I wasn’t given any sort of information about the long term effects of Sepsis and naively thought that everything would just go back to normal now that I was out of hospital.
Seeing my babies!
We went to pick the girls up first, they had spent the night at Allen’s Mums. When we got there it was just the girls there, and I can remember walking in and just sitting down in the front room… I was still so tired and had no energy. They just looked at me, they were so confused. After a couple of seconds they realised it was me and they were both so excited and said “Mummy you’re back” and ran and gave me the biggest cuddle ever. Seeing their little faces light up was the best feeling in the world and I had a little tear in my eye.
After we got the girls in the car we set off to get Max! I was so excited to see him, after just giving birth this was not the way it was supposed to have been. We got to his Dad’s and I spent time just giving him the biggest cuddle ever. I felt like he had grown so much in such a short space of time, which made me sad. I already felt that I had missed out on so much.
My kitchen looked like a pharmacy
The next two weeks went by and I finished my antibiotics. I was taking those, my iron tablets and my blood thinners. My kitchen looked like a pharmacy! I felt so run down, I had so many side effects from Sepsis, which I will write a separate blog post about. Every day was struggle, I struggled to even get up the stairs without it completely draining all of my energy, so looking after toddlers and a new born was a struggle. But Allen was such an angel and helped me with absolutely everything.
Whilst recovering, I received a letter from the hospital that confirmed in writing that the Sepsis was actually caused by blood clots left in the womb following my blood loss. The scan that I had at the time of discharge hadn’t picked this up, but if it had it could have completed been avoided! I’m upset, but I am not clinging on to it at all.
I started to feel poorly again
A few days after finishing my antibiotics, I started to feel poorly again. This time though, I had completely different symptoms. I would explain them as more flu-like symptoms. They just came on out of nowhere, we had been out that day and when we got home I was just chilling on the sofa and out of nowhere I suddenly felt absolutely shattered, and kept going hot and cold. Immediately we though I had flu, and because of everything that had happened we asked Allen’s dads to pick up the girls, but he ended up just taking Millie as Mia wanted to stay with us.
Allen booked me in a Covid test just to be on the safe side, which was at about 4pm that day, so I went and got that done. We got a McDonalds for tea on the way back for us and Mia as a treat. Allen decided later on that it was best for Mia to go to his dads just in case it was Covid, or in case I became more poorly during the night.
When he got home, we ended up sitting upstairs in bed as I felt completely drained, and out of nowhere just started to uncontrollably shake – like shivers but I wasn’t cold! It was bizzare, apart from feeling tired and going hot and cold I didn’t feel poorly in myself. I thought that maybe the shaking was a panic attack as I was scared of going through the same ordeal I’d just been through. Allen took my temperature for me and at some points it was on the higher side of 37, but others it was absolutely normal so I definitely didn’t think that it would be Sepsis again.
Allen sent me to bed and told me to get some sleep and he would watch Max. When I woke up the next morning I again didn’t feel poorly, I just felt quite drained and no energy and thought I just needed some breakfast. I went downstairs to make some food, but as I was going downstairs I started to feel really dizzy. I steadied myself in the kitchen, but then I ended up being sick in the sink! I shouted Allen and he rang 111 straight away.
Sending an ambulance!
He explained everything that had happened with the Sepsis, along with my new symptoms, and the lady on the phone advised that she was sending an ambulance to take me to hospital! I was absolutely terrified. How could I go from feeling not too bad, to needing an ambulance? I was blue lighted to the RVI and seen to straight away.
I was taken up to the delivery suite, where I had my observations taken. I explained about my birth, the past Sepsis diagnosis and treatment, and my new symptoms to the midwife and she advised she would be sending a doctor in to talk to me as well. I honestly felt completely fine apart from a temperature, and a pounding headache. Allen dropped Max off at his dads, and then met me at the hospital. I had more bloods taken, blood cultures and these were sent off, along with another Covid test. I provided them with my negative Covid test from the previous day, but because it hadn’t come from the hospital they were unable to accept it. I was put on to IV antibiotics and paracetamol, and again a catheter was put in. Until the hospital could provide a negative test, I was treated as Covid positive, which I already knew I didn’t have.
The last place I wanted to be again was in the hospital
As the hospital was different, their Covid procedures were different which meant that Allen was unable to stay with me at night. On the first day of admission he was allowed to stay with me until around 11pm, but the next day he would only be allowed to visit between 1-2pm. I was devastated. The last place I wanted to be again was in the hospital, away from him and my babies, let alone doing it all by myself this time.
I was advised the next day, that I was going to be moved to a different ward where they had a spare room for me, whilst waiting for my negative Covid test to come back from the hospital. I was moved down at around lunch time, and was provided lunch but I was so stressed out and emotional that I just couldn’t bare to eat it. At 1pm, visiting hours, Allen was allowed to visit me, and because I was in an isolated room they let him stay a bit longer than they usually would, but once I was moved up to the postnatal ward he had to leave. I was devastated and cried the whole time I was in hospital. On the second day, I was still non the wiser as to why I was in hospital. They had advised that they think the Sepsis was back, but they couldn’t confirm for definite, as the blood cultures were clear but the blood infection markers were high.
I was so frustrated
On the third day, after seeing the doctor, and being told the same – that they were still non the wiser – I was so frustrated, I missed my family, so I had asked that morning to be discharged. The doctors advised that I would need to self-discharge, but I didn’t feel poorly in myself, all I had was a headache and I hadn’t had a temperature since I started the antibiotics. I was advised that I would need to switch to the oral antibiotics at lunch time, and see if my temperature spiked. I was happy to do this, and waiting for them to be prescribed and started to take them. They seemed to work, and I asked at about 3pm if I could self-discharge. They had to wait for the doctors to sign the paperwork before I could leave, and once this was done I was provided with my self-discharge papers which I had to sign – once signed I was free to go!
I was discharged with a 2 week course of two different types of antibiotics, which were different to the first ones I took, and was advised that they were a stronger type of antibiotic.
I was just so relieved to see him
Allen picked me up from the hospital with Max and I was just so relieved to see him! I feel like I missed so much of his tiny little life, he was 4 weeks old and I had barely seen him for the duration and it made me so sad. The girls were at Allen’s mums as she had had them the night before for a sleepover with their cousin. I got the biggest, most excited welcome from them and the biggest cuddle. They kept saying “Mummy you came back” and “I love you”. I absolutely adore my babies and it was just so overwhelming to finally be back with them! I felt so much better in myself this time, and had a lot more energy.
We didn’t stay for long and I remember as we were leaving Allen’s step-dad gave me a cuddle… this was so out of the ordinary and on the way home I told Allen and he said “well Lauren, we’ve all been worried about you, you did nearly die”. It just made the seriousness of the whole situation hit me. I spent the night just enjoying every second of every cuddle I could with my babies!
One third of all Sepsis survivors are re-hospitalised within three months of their initial Sepsis
Yes the second time I had Sepsis again, but had Allen not called 111 then the outcome could have been a lot more serious as it was caught just in time! The cause of the Sepsis the second time, was just purely the first cause of antibiotics hadn’t been long enough, which had caused the infection to come back, but having done some research on Sepsis, one third of all Sepsis survivors are re-hospitalised within three months of their initial Sepsis. I was one of those people, but it made me realise how common this is!
I will forever be grateful for the care that I received both times I was in hospital as it quite literally saved my life, and allowed me to live the rest of my life with my babies. I still have good days and bad days, and Sepsis recovery is no joke – I will be doing a separate blog post on this as previously mentioned – but I will forever be grateful that I am still here!