13 September 2017
Written by Kirsten Lavine
I developed severe sepsis in my mid-40s, as a healthy and strong individual. It occurred after I entered hospital two years ago for a routine day surgery. That night, at home, I began to develop unbearable abdominal pain. Following a return to hospital, I began to display some of the classic signs of sepsis, such as a shortness in breath, low blood pressure and blue/grey mottled skin. Once I was diagnosed with severe sepsis, IV antibiotics and fluids were administered. Unfortunately, the strain of infection I had was resistant to the most common antibiotics, which resulted in a two-week stay in intensive care, much of which was in an induced coma.
It was extremely fortunate that I had a close friend, Trevor, who kept a record of all that happened to me in the ICU: “At 11.30 p.m. I was invited into the room, and was dismayed to discover Kirsten lying under thin, grey blankets, amidst an array of tubes and pipes and machines… Little did I know that this was merely the start of a long and protracted medically-induced coma, out of which Kirsten would be lucky to emerge alive” - extract taken from A Measure of Light: Surviving sepsis and reclaiming my spirit.
"Little did I know that this was merely the start of a long and protracted medically-induced coma, out of which Kirsten would be lucky to emerge alive.”
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition, where the body reacts abnormally to an infection in the body by attacking its own tissues and organs. One possible avenue towards developing sepsis is through meningitis, though sepsis can be contracted from an infection originating anywhere in the body. One of the more dangerous aspects of sepsis is that if it is not recognised early and treated effectively, the outcome can be fatal.
Many of the early symptoms of sepsis are similar to meningitis, such as a high temperature, a fast heartbeat or a rash. Additional signs of sepsis include having pale/mottled skin, a shortness in breath, slurred speech or a lack of urine output.
Sepsis is mainly treated with antibiotics and fluids. The time spent in hospital and recovery period can vary, depending on the speed at which the infection is treated and the severity of the case. While the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are more at risk, anyone can develop sepsis, including the young and healthy.
“Recovery is a strange process. No one gives you a set time for how long things are going to take, or the order in which they will occur, and neither is it a linear process, but instead it is full of setbacks. I have also found recovering mentally and emotionally from this experience to be an even greater challenge. Physically, it’s possible to see progress, however small. But the mind can be a harsh critic, and wounds of the soul can be very hard to mend” - extract taken from A Measure of Light: Surviving sepsis and reclaiming my spirit.
A Measure of Light: Surviving sepsis and reclaiming my spirit, which has been endorsed by the Global Sepsis Alliance and the UK Sepsis Trust, will be launched on World Sepsis Day on 13 September at the Royal United Hospitals, Bath, UK. The book will be available to buy on Amazon and directly from Kirsten’s website.
I’ve related my experiences of contracting sepsis and my return to health in a book entitled, A Measure of Light: Surviving sepsis and reclaiming my spirit. The book is in part a call to raise awareness about the life-threatening potential of sepsis, while championing the importance of taking charge of your recovery and following the path of healing that is right for you. It is intended both to educate and to provide support for others who have had similar experiences, and to inspire people to live life to their fullest potential.
One of the most valuable lessons I can pass on with regards to any potentially serious illness, including meningitis and sepsis, is if you or a family member or a friend feel that something is not right, it is best to get it checked out straight away, preferably by going directly to hospital. The speed at which you seek help could make all the difference in giving you a second chance at life again.
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Kirsten Lavine is a UK-based writer, teacher and oral historian. She has written or been involved with various oral history publications, including: Bear in Mind: Stories of the Troubles, Yarn Spinning, Twin Spire Life, From Baltic Sea to Baltic Wharf and Hineni: Life Portraits from a Jewish Community. This is her first true-life account of her own experiences.