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    An illustration to raise awareness of sepsis.
    Published:
Sepsis is the body’s immune system over-responding to an infection. Symptoms initially present as flu-like but can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Sepsis accounts for 44,000 deaths annually in the UK - that’s more than breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer combined. 

It’s currently Sepsis Awareness Month and earlier this week it was World Sepsis Day. I’ve been thinking about my own recent experience, hence this illustration. I managed to develop sepsis during labour back in April when my waters broke without me noticing, allowing an infection to take hold. However, this managed to coincide with contractions, leading me to believe that the symptoms of sepsis (fever/chills, shaking, raised heart rate, vomiting) might be signs of labour. Thanks, Dr Google! 

So what did I do? I went to bed. Yes, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to try and “sleep off” labour. When this didn’t work, I went to the hospital where they recognised my symptoms straight away. I was very lucky to go into labour when I did, to go into hospital when I did. The NHS saved mine and my daughter’s lives. I gave birth as quickly as humanly possible and we were both promptly treated with what felt like industrial levels of IV antibiotics over several days. 

We’re alive but it could have turned out very differently.

Sepsis is treatable but for every five minutes that treatment is delayed, the chances of death increase by one percent. Public awareness about sepsis needs to be increased so that anyone developing symptoms can ask: could it be sepsis? I was incredibly fortunate to be treated by the amazing staff of Lincoln County Hospital but not everyone is seen by doctors and nurses who recognise the signs. Similarly, those with symptoms might be tempted to ignore them as they could be mistaken for other conditions.

There is no one sign for sepsis but it is a serious condition that can initially look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. Please visit sepsistrust.org to make yourself familiar with the symptoms. 

© Zara Picken 2017 www.zaraillustrates.com