Woman left fighting for life after developing sepsis from urine infection

Rachel Flynn, 26, was resuscitated twice by medics in 24 hours and said she 'wouldn't be here' if she hadn't called an ambulance.

A woman left fighting for her life a day after contracting deadly sepsis said she ‘wouldn’t be here’ if she hadn’t called an ambulance.

Rachel Flynn, 26, was finishing work ahead of going on a hen do to Marbella when she started to feel unwell.

By the next day, rather than being on a flight to Spain, she was in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh near death.

She had contracted sepsis after a urine infection spread to her kidneys and into her bloodstream. 

Over the next 24 hours, she had to be resuscitated twice.

A year on, she is still trying to process what happened.  

Rachel said the mental impact of her health journey has taken its toll on her

“If I hadn’t made the decision to call an ambulance when I did, I don’t think I’d be able to be sitting here speaking to you today,” Rachel told STV News.

Her symptoms started out as a fever, but when she looked in the mirror her lips had turned blue. That prompted her to call 999. 

She said: “[The paramedics] pulled my fiance aside and said, ‘she’s in septic shock – we need to get her to hospital now’…

“The next conversation I remember overhearing was that there wasn’t a bed for me in the hospital and that they were demanding that I needed a bed, that I wasn’t in a fit position to be left in a corridor… The next two weeks are a bit of a blur, to be honest.”

Rachel felt so weak that she had to use a wheelchair, and it took her months before she built up the strength to exercise again. 

She has since made a full physical recovery, but she says that the mental impact has taken its toll.

The PR professional, who lives in Penicuik, is now going through counselling and trying to raise awareness about sepsis.

The condition takes the lives of approximately five people every hour in the UK.

It happens when the body’s response to an infection spirals out of control, injuring its own tissues and organs which can result in multiple organ failure and death.

September is Sepsis Awareness Month, and research charity Sepsis Research FEAT is launching a survey alongside the James Lind Alliance (JLA). 

Patients, carers and health and social care professionals are being encouraged to make their views known to help inform future research.

Colin Graham, chief operating officer at Sepsis Research FEAT, said: “Sepsis is the number one cause of preventable death in the world and often has life-changing consequences for those that survive. 

“Our purposes as a charity are to raise funds for research into sepsis and to raise awareness of this brutal and often life-threatening condition. 

“Sepsis Awareness Month helps us do that by educating more people about the symptoms of sepsis so they can recognise them quickly and act fast to get treatment.

 “This year, Sepsis Awareness Month is more important than ever as the survey findings will present an unrivalled opportunity for us to chart the course of sepsis research over the next ten years and ultimately help to save more lives.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for those who have been affected by sepsis to make their voices heard and to contribute to the direction of sepsis research for the future.”

Dr Bronwen Connolly from Queen’s University Belfast is one of three clinical co-leads for the project. 

She said: “Sepsis is a devastating condition with widespread consequences for patients and their families. This study is incredibly important because there are still so many unanswered questions about sepsis for clinicians and researchers.

 “With limited research funding available, it’s simply not possible to research every topic within the sepsis spectrum, so having these survey results to direct our focus for the next ten years will ensure we are prioritising what is most important to those whose lives have been affected by sepsis in some way.”

The survey will be available at www.sepsisresearch.org.uk from Wednesday, September 13.

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