‘Signs of sepsis’: Mum who lost legs lists symptoms everyone should know

A mother has warned of the dangers of sepsis after a bruise on her thumb led to her losing her legs and seven fingers.

Katy Grainger, 55, says she was “health conscious” and “very healthy” when she suddenly became ill in 2018.

She was living in Hawaii at the time but had gone to California to visit her children when she realised there was something wrong with her thumb.

“I noticed a purple bump on my right thumb that seemed to be oozing a little bit,” Katy wrote for Today.

“On the way home, I stopped by a clinic and got an antibiotic just to be safe. I was very tired and went straight to bed. I ended up sleeping all day.”

When Katy woke she said she had an “urgency” that she needed to get help so she called a friend to take her to hospital, saying her “hands and feet were on fire”.

By the time Katy’s friend arrived, she was unconscious and she cannot remember the week that followed as she was put into a drug-induced coma.

“My blood pressure was 50/30, which is insanely low. My body went haywire. My kidneys and my lungs were failing,” said Katy.

“My hands and feet became totally purple — the first signs that I was getting disseminated intravascular coagulation, or tiny blood clots in my limbs. It was very scary to my family.”

When she woke up, Katy had to spent two hours a day in a hyperbaric chamber in a bid to save her legs and hands, which were blackening like “charcoal”.

“Over the three weeks, we watched my hands come back to life and doctors were able to save them, which I consider a small miracle,” said Katy.

“But my fingertips were clearly dead — I had severe gangrene. They were shrivelled up, hard and dry. They almost seemed like charcoal. Seven had to be amputated.”

Sadly, medical staff were unable to save Katy’s feet and both of her legs were amputated below the knee.

Katy lost her limbs due to a condition called sepsis, a life-threatening illness caused by your body’s response to infection. It happens when the body’s immune system goes haywire and overreacts.

Sepsis develops when the chemicals the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead. Severe cases can lead to septic shock, which is a medical emergency.

It can be caused by viral, parasitic or fungal infections but bacterial infections are by far the most common cause.

In Katy’s case the cause was never identified, but what she did identify were the symptoms she’d had prior to falling unconscious.

The symptoms of sepsis can be quickly recognised using the acronym TIME:

T: temperature, higher or lower than normal.

I: infection, look for signs and symptoms of one.

M: mental decline that can make a person seem sleepy or confused.

E: extremely ill, with a patient complaining of severe pain, discomfort or shortness of breath.

“I went through all of those but I wrote off every single one of them off,” said Katy.

Katy is now a board member of Sepsis Alliance and is making it her mission to spread sepsis education and awareness.

She also lives her life to the fullest.

“I now walk very well with a prosthetic foot. I can ride a bike and drive. I learned snowboarding and wakesurfing. I’m so grateful I can do as much as I can,” said Katy.

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