WARNING: Graphic photos below
A mother in England is speaking out to warn others about the dangers of sepsis after she mistook her symptoms for a common cold, only to end up in the intensive care unit days later with an infection that claimed her toes and nearly killed her.
Ruth Kent recently told Kennedy News and Media that she initially shook off the chills and aches last November, but when she started feeling pain in her feet and having trouble with incontinence, she knew she needed help.
Kent told the news agency that her son saved her life by calling for paramedics when he found her “blue” on the couch.
“I deteriorated very, very quickly,” the 53-year-old told Kennedy News. “It was really scary. My son saved my life that day. If he hadn’t been there, I would have been a goner.”
Kent was rushed to Northampton General Hospital where she was treated for meningococcal meningitis, but the infection had turned septic and began causing her organs to shut down, she said. She spent the next several weeks fighting for her life as doctors warned her family to prepare for the worst.
Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection and is considered a life-threatening emergency, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sepsis occurs when an existing condition triggers a chain reaction throughout the body, and can quickly cause tissue damage, organ failure or even death. Anyone can develop sepsis, but those age 64 and older, children younger than 1, or patients with chronic medical conditions and weakened immune systems are most at risk.
Kent said her knowledge of sepsis was limited, and that she can’t remember much other than her hands and feet going black during her two-week stay in intensive care. She also feared she would lose her eyesight.
“I remember seeing people come and having to put the gown and masks on,” she told Kennedy News. “I could see them through the window. My brother came over from New York the following Friday with his wife. They were preparing for the worst.”
Kent made it out of the intensive care unit, but her nose, fingers and toes had turned black from the infection. She was released from the hospital several weeks later with all limbs intact, and her nose and fingers eventually recovered, but weeks later nurses recognized an infection in her feet during a bandage change at her home.
“My feet started to smell and they did some swabs which showed an infection,” Kent told the outlet. “In January 2019, when nurses came to change my dressings, they took them off and my feet were green with gangrene. I’ve lost seven of my toes and have three little stumps left. They had to take the side of my feet off.”
Despite the extreme measures, Kent is not out of the woods yet. She said she still struggles with fatigue, and can’t walk more than a few steps. She said she joined support groups and has been talking to other amputee patients, but is urging patients who have concerns about possible infection to speak up earlier than she did.
“I had no inclination that it was sepsis,” she told the news agency of her infection.” “If I’d have known more I might have gone to the doctors earlier.”