The family holiday to the English seaside town of Cleethorpes when I was 18 will always be remembered as the worst family holiday ever.
The caravan site was far from what it was billed as, it did nothing but rain, the food was awful – oh, and I almost died of sepsis.
Two weeks before the holiday from hell, I had cut my knee while shaving in the shower and got soap in the cut. It bled quite a lot but I put this down to being on aspirin, which thins your blood.
The wound wasn’t very big but it was deep so I just cleaned it and put a plaster on. I didn’t really think much of it as I’m quite a clumsy person so hurt myself a lot.
For the next two weeks, the area around the cut consistently swelled. What developed was a small red lump and the cut itself hadn’t healed properly, but for some reason I had chosen to ignore it.
It ached to touch, I couldn’t kneel properly and some clothes like jeans irritated it, but instead of treating it, I put it down to ‘just being a wuss’. I hadn’t even told my family.
It turns out this was a dangerous attitude to have, one that could’ve literally cost me my life.
Cut to our second day in Cleethorpes and I’d been feeling a bit sick all morning. My family (my parents and sister) and I blamed the half-cooked jacket potatoes my mum and I had been served for dinner the night before because her tummy was hurting too.
We tried to make the most of another rainy day by checking out the neighbouring theme park Thorpe Park, but my misery dampened spirits.
When we got back to the caravan for lunch I had to rush to the loo, just making it in time before terrible diarrhea and vomit projected out of both ends. I was feeling dizzy and sick and could barely see with spots in front of my eyes.
Panicking, mother rang 999, but as I was newly diagnosed with the autoimmune system disease Lupus, the primary care team said to contact our family GP because they didn’t know much about the nature of my illness.
At this point it was assumed it was a really vicious case of gastroenteritis. So she rang our family GP, who instructed us to return home and go straight to Sunderland hospital.
I didn’t even consider it being related to my knee – nothing pointed to that.
If we thought the holiday was bad, the return home was even worse – three hours and 155 miles in a car with me no longer in control of my bowels. We had to stop at every service station we could find, a lot of the time just to clean me up from when I hadn’t been able to wait.
When we finally pulled into the hospital, I was so weak I could barely stand. It was only as the nurse was helping me take my clothes off that she noticed the badly-infected wound on my leg and reported it to a doctor.
After this point I don’t really remember a lot. I was delirious, angry and verging on being violent, I think this was due to how exhausted and fed up I was. I was in so much pain so had to be sedated.
The only other thing I remember is that I kept telling anyone who would listen that morphine was ‘goood sh****t’.
The next day, my doctor told me I had sepsis and it was in the severe stage. Also known as septicaemia or blood poisoning, sepsis happens when your immune system overreacts to an infection and starts to damage your body’s own tissues and organs.
It can be life threatening. If I’d come in even a few hours later, I might have died.
Research from The UK Sepsis Trust found there are at least 245,000 cases of sepsis in the UK every year and up to 48,000 people die from it. Sepsis kills more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined.
Like in my case, symptoms are often confused with a bad case of gastroenteritis.
The other symptoms to watch out for are a change in mental state, slurred speech, severe muscle pain, severe breathlessness, less urine production than normal, cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin and loss of consciousness – all of which I experienced throughout the day and during my trip home.
One big reason that we assumed it was a stomach issue was that my mum was also experiencing pain and sickness; it was a very badly-timed coincidence that this was the start of a decade of gallbladder issues for her – she was taken into hospital two days later.
It took about two to three weeks to recover. Again, this is fuzzy for both me and my mum as I was asleep a lot and she was in hospital for 11 days and recovering too.
I was exhausted and slept for days on end, waking up only to eat sometimes one meal a day. My muscles ached and I couldn’t walk around a lot.
After my near-death encounter, I struggled for years with my fear of cuts in case I caught sepsis again so I didn’t shave for a long time. When I do now, the intrusive thoughts are always at the back of my mind. Like I’m going to hurt myself, catch sepsis and die.
If I cut myself particularly badly it can still trigger panic attacks, like the time last year I broke a bottle of beer and sliced my leg and was inconsolable.
This experience has taught me how important it is to properly treat cuts because you can’t be too careful.
Always make sure that you clean up any wounds no matter how small and seek medical advice if it doesn’t seem to be healing as it may be infected.
Please don’t leave it too late – you might not be as lucky as I was.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
Share your views in the comments below.
MORE : What it feels like… to be hospitalised with coronavirus
MORE : What it feels like… to be sectioned
MORE : What it feels like… to be hit by a drunk truck driver
In this exciting new series from Metro.co.uk, What It Feels Like… not only shares one person’s moving story, but also the details and emotions entwined within it, to allow readers a true insight into their life changing experience.
Thanks for reading the whole article. If you wish to get an daily update about What it feels like… to nearly die of sepsis , click on the bell button to subscribe for the notifications.