Sepsis Awareness Month: Henlow survivor warns of symptoms after hands and feet amputated

PUBLISHED: 10:48 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:48 22 September 2020

Caroline wants to emphasise the signs and symptoms of sepsis in a bid to help save lives. Picture: Courtesy of the Coster family

Caroline wants to emphasise the signs and symptoms of sepsis in a bid to help save lives. Picture: Courtesy of the Coster family

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During Sepsis Awareness Month a brave teacher who had her hands and feet amputated – after contracting coronavirus and then sepsis – wants to highlight the signs and symptoms of the life-threatening condition in a bid to save lives.

Caroline believes she may not be a quadruple amputee now if she had recognised the signs and symptoms of sepsis earlier and asked for help sooner. Picture: Courtesy of the Coster familyCaroline believes she may not be a quadruple amputee now if she had recognised the signs and symptoms of sepsis earlier and asked for help sooner. Picture: Courtesy of the Coster family

Caroline Coster, a teacher at Henlow Church of England Academy, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March, admitted into critical care and put in an induced coma for a month.

She later developed sepsis and her blood pressure fell so low she was given vasopressors to ensure blood flow continued to reach her vital organs. It ultimately saved her life, but resulted in Caroline’s hands and feet turning black and having to be amputated.

Sepsis – also known as septicaemia or blood poisoning – happens when your immune system overreacts to an infection and starts to damage your body’s own tissues and organs.

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Caroline, who is learning to use prosthetic limbs as part of her rehabilitation programme at St Mary’s Hospital in London, said: “I think if I had known the signs of sepsis I would have shouted for help much more quickly and the chances are I would have escaped becoming a quadruple amputee.

“In my case, it is very hard to know when the sepsis started because I had been so unwell with COVID. My main symptom was that I felt incredibly tired, drained, completely without energy. I virtually never sleep during the day, but I was sleeping for much of the day and was completely exhausted. I thought this was just part of my recovery from COVID, but now I see it was a symptom of the immense strain my body was under. My breathing was affected as well.

“I remember the sensation of feeling like I just couldn’t cope anymore. The Sepsis Trust lists a feeling that you are going to die as one of the symptoms. I think this belief that I couldn’t cope anymore was my equivalent of feeling like I was going to die.”

Sepsis can be hard to spot. There are lots of possible symptoms, which can be similar to other conditions, including flu. Symptoms include acting confused, slurred speech or not making sense; blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue; a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it - the same as meningitis - and difficulty breathing, breathlessness or breathing very fast.

For more information, visit sepsistrust.org


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