The Disease Nobody Knows About Until it’s Too Late

If you know much about sepsis, chances are the condition has affected your family.

Sepsis has a high mortality and kills 37,000 people a year in the UK, about 1,000 of them kids. So this week I’m parking the levity and using my blog to sum up what you need to know about sepsis. Photo by Jean Scheijen FreeImages.com/Jean ScheijenUnderstand what it is.

Sepsis is when the body responds to severe infection in such a way that it attacks its own organs and tissues. Without treatment, this quickly leads to organ failure and death.

Most people have heard of blood poisoning (septicaemia) which is much the same thing. But doctors now prefer the term sepsis because there isn’t always blood poisoning in this condition.  

Sepsis isn’t exactly a household name – yet. Personally I think ‘sepsis’ sounds weaker than either septicaemia or blood poisoning, but we’re stuck with the term that scientists agree on.

Know the signs.

The symptoms depend on age, but the main point is that there isn’t any one specific sign like, say a swollen jaw with mumps. A child with sepsis can have a high fever, or an abnormally low one. The younger the child, the vaguer the symptoms.

Here are some signs to look out for in children (from the UK Sepsis Trust’s Paediatric Pocket Guide):

symptoms of sepsis in children

And here are some signs to watch out for in adults (from the UK Sepsis Trust’s excellent Symptom Checker card):

symptoms of sepsis in adults

If I could highlight just two consistent points about sepsis, they would be these:

You or your youngster will be more unwell than expected.

Things get rapidly worse, especially in children.

Understand who gets it.

Anyone can develop sepsis from a bacterial infection (or sometimes a virus or fungus). But some are more at risk, like the very young, very old, pregnant women, diabetics, and people on long-term steroids.

The initial infection can be a serious one like meningitis, or seemingly trivial, like a horse-fly bite.

Surgery can be linked with sepsis, especially emergency operations on those in poor health, or with peritonitis or bladder infections.

scalpel

Know what to do.

Sepsis is a medical emergency and needs urgent hospital care. Don’t waste a single moment.

Sepsis isn’t one disease, but rather a syndrome that cuts across almost every medical speciality. The first doctor you see could be a paediatrician, a gynaecologist, an orthopaedic surgeon, or your GP, and sepsis may not feature at the top of their list. That’s why it’s so important for you to mention it. When you see the doctor or nurse, make sure you say, “I’m worried about sepsis.”

Thanks for bearing with me.

Litmann type stethoscope

Here’s a selection of further reading if you’re interested.

The UK Sepsis Trust is a charity founded to save lives and improve outcomes for survivors of sepsis by instigating political change, educating healthcare professionals, raising public awareness and providing support for those affected. For their general factsheet on sepsis, click here

Sepsis Awareness Month: Rory’s Story. One mother’s personal account.

Three and a Half Heartbeats by Amanda Prowse. A novel of love, loss, and hope about a family devastated when their child dies of sepsis. And proceeds go to UK Sepsis Trust.

Plunkett A, Tong J. Sepsis in Children.  BMJ 2015;350:h3017. A detailed medical article from the British Medical Journal.

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Comment to Win Jessica Bell’s Thriller, WHITE LADY!

To celebrate the release of Jessica Bell’s latest novel, WHITE LADY, she is giving away an e-copy (mobi, ePub, or PDF) to a random commenter of this post.  White Lady by Jessica Bell

Anyone can enter.   All you have to do is give the most creative answer to the following question:

If you put a White Lady, two rubber duckies, a man with crooked eyebrows, and a carving knife in a garage for 24 hours, what will you find in the morning?

Please include your email address in your comment. Comments will close in 48 hours.

Want more chances to win? You have until October 31 to visit all the blogs where Jessica will visit. Remember, each blog is open to comments for 48 hours only, from the time of posting.

If you win, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to download the book.

Click HERE to see the list of blogs.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

*This novel contains coarse language, violence, and sexual themes.

​Sonia yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats.

While being the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord and simultaneously dating his best mate is not ideal, she’s determined to make it work.

It does work. Until Mia, her lover’s daughter, starts exchanging saliva with her son, Mick. They plan to commit a crime behind Sonia’s back. It isn’t long before she finds out and gets involved to protect them.

But is protecting the kids really Sonia’s motive?

Click HERE to view the book trailer.

Click HERE for purchase links.black and white_Jessica Bell

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, is the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

The Day I Never Met Nelson Mandela

I want to brag about meeting Madiba.  After all, wasn’t I there in the photos, just behind the Spice Girls? Didn’t we do one of his little impromptu jigs?  And did we not shake hands that day in Brixton?  As I recall, I even helped Mandela hone some of his best quotes, like these.

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

 If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Alas, the sad truth is that, unlike the rest of the world, I have no personal reminiscences of Mandela to share with you, broadcast, or tweet.

The closest I ever got was holding a placard.   It was decades ago, when thousands of students filled the streets and chanted ‘Free Nelson Mandela’.  Some were committed anti-apartheid campaigners, like the group who held a four-year vigil in Trafalgar Square, but others weren’t.  Looking back, a few of my fellow students probably had little idea of who Mandela was.  Still, it was a lot more fun than going to lectures.

I doubt many people imagined then quite how world-changing Mandela might one day become.   So is he the new Messiah, as some suggest? Mandela in Parliament Square

Until history answers that one, I offer several points of contrast:

There are very few buildings and streets named after Jesus.

Jesus never got married or wrote an autobiography.

Mandela wore amazing shirts.

While Mandela and Jesus were both keen on love, forgiveness, and food for all, there is no record of Mandela ever walking on water.  If he had, he might not have had to wait for the boat from Robben Island.

Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela.

A person dies twice:  once when their heart stops, and again when they are forgotten.   As long as we never forget this wonderful man and all he stood for, he will always be with us.

Mandela plaque WestminsterRelated articles

Five tips for Freshers’ Week

escolaresAny minute now, university towns will be invaded by young people, many of them away from home for the first time.  By definition, freshmen will be desperate to cram in as much as possible into just a few days.  Freshers’ Week can be a full 7 days, a mere 5 at some unis, or stretched out to what’s billed as ‘the best two weeks of your life’.  If you survive.

US-style hazing* isn’t part of the freshman experience in the UK, and may be illegal anyway.  But giving ridiculously cheap alcohol to 18-year olds and seeing what happens?  That’s a totally acceptable, even obligatory, part of the initiation that is Freshers’ Week.

It usually begins with an event called the Mingle and can end up anywhere.  Alone the way, the student body gets into heaps of trouble: sex, accidents, drugs, debt, stress, freshers’ flu, gastric complaints, hypothermia, blackouts, lost underwear, chlamydia and the full shag (syphilis, herpes, ano-genital warts and gonorrhoea).

instant idiot 1There’s no shortage of sensible advice around, but few students heed it. Here, passed on by an infinitely wise third year, are 5 tips for making the most of Freshers’ Week.

1 Smile at everyone.  You never know who will be your best friend.  Even better, snog everyone.  Make sure you post the evidence on Facebook.  You want people to think you’re friendly, don’t you?

2 Save time by multitasking.  It’s possible to drink beer while doing almost any other activity eg crossing the street, wrestling on the rooftop.  You can also make new friends in the queue at the sexual health clinic (see tip 1).

3 Be ambitious.  The Freshers’ Fair is an intoxicating event meant to convince newbies that anything’s possible, even if, for some very good reason, they’ve never tried it before. You’re tone deaf?  A choir beckons.  You’ve inherited Auntie Pat’s tremor?  Then the rifle club is for you.  Just sign up and pay up.

4 Send automated messages back home.  Whether text or email, these should be regular and reassuring.  Sample messages to start you off:

Hey Mum.  The library is fab!  I plan to spend a lot of time there.

Hi Dad.  I’ve joined the Chess Society and the gym.

This will ease the way when you run out of money sometime during week two.

5 Do the Circle Line pub crawl. Legendary and utterly London, this is where a second year, usually from some society or club, takes unsuspecting freshers to down a pint at each one of the 27 stops on the Circle line.  It’ll make a massive dent in your wallet and your liver, but at least the next day you’ll be too wasted to get into any more trouble.

*For more on hazing, see http://www.stophazing.org/

My fabulous life on TV

Being on TV is the ultimate in glamour, as the late David Frost knew so well.  That’s pretty much how it is for me too.  Polish TVFirst off, I get chauffeured to the studio.  This driver collects vintage sweet wrappers, judging by his floor.  I can see them even though it’s 5am and still dark.  On our way, he relates all the symptoms he and his family have ever had.  I hope we arrive before he gets around to his Farmers.

Getting inside the studio is the next hurdle.  I’ve been to this one many times, yet each time the security guard peers at me as if I might be wearing a suicide vest.  On my way out, he’ll be asking for my autograph, but getting in means a ritual interrogation.

The Green Room (which is blue rather than green – whose idea was that?) is swarming with guests ranging from newspaper reviewers to a family with 7 children who live on E numbers.  In a corner two politicians from opposing parties are swapping dirty jokes.   In here they’re like bosom buddies, though on air they’ll be punching the verbal daylights out of each other.

The newspaper reviewers have covered every surface with newspapers.  The kids have eaten all but one of the biscuits in the box on the table, and I saw the youngest lick that one.

A runner asks if I’d like tea or coffee.  In hindsight, I should choose water.  It’s more likely to arrive before I go on air.

In make-up, the artists are busy working on presenters and guests while chatting about boyfriends and clothes.   Two artists become free at the same time.  I’m standing in the doorway as they eyeball each other.  “OK, I’ll do her” says one of them finally.  “I like a challenge.”

Foundation goes on ¼” thick.  It gives me an orange glow, as if I’ve been on holiday.  In a Doritos factory.  “Ever considered permanent makeup?” asks the artist who is now applying thick ribbons of black eyeliner.

My tip: ask to look like the artist who’s doing your panel-beating and respray.  Everyone likes a compliment, and it saves time because they’ve always got that look down to a fine art.

My artist sighs as she inspects my hair and asks how I’d like it.  With about twice as much volume is my answer, but that’s not possible. What I get is a headful of Velcro rollers followed by a vicious backcombing that threatens to yank my earrings off.

Sometimes there’s no time for hair and makeup, and I have to go on camera without it.  The message is more important than the messenger.

Presenters are invariably charming and can conduct three conversations at once: with the co-presenter, the guest, and, via an earpiece, the producer in the gallery. The interviewee only has to manage one dialogue.

It’s over quickly, but I always know that lots of people are watching, in other words the producer and my mother (actually my mother doesn’t bother so much these days).  On the plus side, I manage to get across most of my points on MRSA.  And someone finally hands me that coffee when I get out.

My driver is the same one.  On our way back he merrily clips the wing mirror of a parked BMW, and deposits me 100 yards from my home.  He can’t get any further because a refuse cart is blocking the road.

refuse cart crop

“Thanks” I say as I get out, feeling a bit rubbish.