WHEN Yvonne Wiggins started to struggle with her breathing, she thought it was just down to her asthma.
The 56-year-old developed the condition later on in life so it was something that was always at the forefront of her mind.
She decided to make an appointment with her GP who initially told her to take more pumps of her asthma inhaler, take some paracetamol and drink plenty of water.
But the mum’s condition continued to deteriorate and after five appointments, Yvonne, who lives in Hastings, was rushed to hospital with deadly sepsis.
Speaking to The Sun, Yvonne is now sharing her ordeal as part of Sepsis Awareness Month and to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms you should never ignore.
These include confusion, cold and blotchy arms and legs, high or low temperature and not passing as much urine in a 24 hour period.
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You might also experience blue or pale skin, difficulty breathing and a weak, high pitched voice.
After that initial first appointment in December 2018, Yvonne’s condition continued to get worse and she became frustrated.
“I hadn’t experienced anything like this before and I was getting stressed. I just kept thinking ‘oh god this is getting worse’.”
Yvonne, went for a second and third appointment, and was told that because she had asthma, it was common that she would get a viral infection.
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She added: “They told me again that there was nothing they could do and they sent me home, I just had to believe that they knew best.”
She had two more appointments, and on the final one, a separate GP advised that she should be on antibiotics because she was asthmatic – a medication the other GPs had previously advised against.
“I just felt like they were giving me the medication because it was Christmas Eve and they would be closed.
“I just wanted to get through Christmas and thought if anything happened, then at least I would have the prescription.”
On Christmas Day, Yvonne was still struggling and was having to take 10 asthma pumps a day just to breathe.
“I was gasping for breath,” she said.
On Boxing Day, the whole family came over for lunch and Yvonne was unable to join in with the celebrations as she was struggling.
They were told they would have to plan my funeral. I could only move my eyes and I didn’t know where I was
“At lunch I just told them I felt awful and that I would take some antibiotics and go lay down.
“As soon as I went into the bedroom I passed out and when I woke up I couldn’t breathe and was rolling around in pain.
“I was struggling big time,” she said.
Yvonne also suffers from Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation of the digestive system – so she just thought that it was a complication to do with her condition.
Slowly, Yvonne went in and out of consciousness and when the ambulance arrived she was unconscious.
“They took me to the hospital and diagnosed me with sepsis and I was in a coma.
“With sepsis, your organs go first, your kidneys, lungs and then your heart.
“I was on life support, hooked up to numerous machines and my blood pressure was at an all time low.
“My family were given the news that it wasn’t looking good and I had just a two per cent chance of survival.
“They were told they would have to plan my funeral. I could only move my eyes and I didn’t know where I was”.
The signs of sepsis you need to know
Sepsis is usually triggered by another illness and most people who get sepsis are thought to have already had an infection.
These infections could be anything from pneumonia, an abdominal infection, a urinary infection or a wound.
Sepsis Research FEAT says the symptoms are:
- very high or low temperature
- uncontrolled shivering
- passing less urine than normal
- blotchy or cold arms or legs
- fast or difficult breathing
- rapid heartbeat
- feeling dizzy or faint
The experts say : "On their own, each of these symptoms can be an indication of other health problems that may still require medical attention.
"But a combination of these symptoms, becoming progressively worse, means you need to seek urgent medical attention. Early recognition and prompt treatment can and does save lives."
After spending three and half months asleep, Yvonne finally woke up and was paralysed.
She had to learn to walk, talk and eat again.
“It was all so hard, it’s just the things we take for granted.
“I couldn’t remember my friends or family, I could only remember my son Asha.”
But Yvonne didn’t know that as she was going through her sepsis battle, her son was also going through the exact same thing.
Asha, 24, has cerebral palsy and had previously been admitted for sepsis.
While Yvonne was being treated in Hastings, Asha was at Homerton Hospital in London.
She said: “While I was asleep in the coma I knew something wasn’t right, I felt it and I just kept seeing him poorly.
“As a mum I had always been by his side but I was so frail and couldn’t talk and at the time, my family couldn't tell me he was ill.
Since their ordeal, both Asha and Yvonne have recovered well, with the help from personal trainer Ollie Golden.
Yvonne has now praised the work being done at charity Sepsis Research FEAT, which aims to stop sepsis by funding vital research.
She added: “What they are doing is groundbreaking research and nonone else has ever done anything like this before.”
With the help of Sepsis Research FEAT, Yvonne is raising awareness as she believes it is a ‘forgotten condition’.
“Personally I rarely see anything about sepsis and how serious it can be.
“I feel like it isn’t taken seriously.”
In order to stop others going through what her and Asha have suffered, Yvonne said if you feel unwell you need to speak up.
“Listen to your body, stand your ground.
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“Especially after Covid, it’s really hard to get a face to face appointment with a GP now.
“People need to listen, and you need to be persistent and don’t bother to wait around to get checked.”
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