Posted by Abigail Ringer, Associate
How a member of our Medical Negligence team, and her baby, survived sepsis
When the UK Sepsis Trust estimates that five people are killed by sepsis every hour in the UK alone, surviving sepsis is no mean feat. As World Sepsis Day approaches, Abigail Ringer spoke to Divya from our Medical Negligence team to find out more about what it’s like to survive sepsis.
It was a chilly winter’s day in December and Divya was expecting her first baby at any moment, being ten days overdue. Feeling a mixture of excitement and nerves, she was growing inpatient for her baby to be born.
Eventually, her contractions started and Divya and her husband went to hospital. It wasn’t long before her waters broke and she was told that there was meconium in her waters. Meconium is a green, tar like substance which comprises the first stool passed by a new born baby. Sometimes, however, it can come out in the womb, increasing the risk of infection for both mother and baby.
Divya required an epidural following which she soon started to feel increasingly cold. She started shivering and described how her body went it to shock. She felt disorientated, but remembers being told that her baby was struggling and needed to be born as soon as possible by caesarean section.
Giving birth to a baby whilst suffering from sepsis
Divya had developed sepsis, so she was given intravenous antibiotics and rushed to theatre. It was all a bit of blur and thoughts of the ‘worst case scenario’ flooded her mind; Divya felt scared for her baby and recalls being terrified that her son had developed sepsis too.
It was just moments later and Divya’s little son was born. He was taken away to be cleaned and her husband cut the cord. Eventually he was brought back to Divya and as she held him in her arms for the first time she was filled with a mixture of joy and fear. On the one hand she was relieved that all appeared well, but she knew that they were not entirely out of danger. However her baby was given antibiotics as a precaution and fortunately he was healthy and had no further complications. He was discharged from hospital two days later.
The story was not so straight forward for Divya, though. Once she was back at home she developed a fever and started having night sweats. She had heard that women can experience “hot flushes” following pregnancy and put the fever down to hormones. However, when this continued, she knew something more sinister was going on.
Divya saw her GP and her temperature was 38.4 degrees. Fortunately her GP acted swiftly and contacted the hospital where various investigations were carried out and she was given intravenous antibiotics within an hour of arriving.
A scary week in isolation
Divya spent a week in hospital, more or less in isolation as the doctors did not know what had caused her infection and they did not want it to be passed to other people. It turned out that Divya had retained some of her placenta which had caused the infection, so the remaining parts of her placenta had to be removed under general anaesthetic. It was torture being away from her newborn son, but it was not long before they were reunited again and Divya made a full recovery from sepsis.
Divya’s story has a happy ending but not everyone is so lucky. Antibiotics were given to her very quickly but sometimes there is a delay in recognising sepsis and treating the sepsis with antibiotics.
It is estimated that over six in every 1000 live births are complicated by infection and, sadly, I have worked with families who have lost their babies within days of being born, either as a result of a delay in delivery or a delay in administering antibiotics. Whilst we have been able to succeed in recovering compensation for these families, nothing can fill the agony of losing a baby.
Our hope is that further investment in projects to improve diagnosis of sepsis, such as the successful e-sepsis trial, will help more mothers and babies survive the condition.
 Cailes B, Kortsalioudaki C, Buttery J On behalf of the neonIN network, et al
Epidemiology of UK neonatal infections: the neonIN infection surveillance network
Archives of Disease in Childhood – Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2018;103:F547-F553.
If you have any questions for our team about sepsis, please contact us today.
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