Paige Nicholson is a fit and healthy 25 year old who is a nurse at Waikato Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED). On 3 July, Paige finished worked at the Waikato Hospital, went to the gym, went home – her routine was normal as usual. At 10pm that night, she suddenly felt miserable, saying: “It was like a truck had just hit me. I was freezing cold, shaking and with a sudden high temperature.” She thought her tonsillitis was back and took some Panadol, Nurofen and went to bed.
“At 1am, I had the sharpest pain in my back and could barely breathe. As a health professional, I went through everything it could be such as kidneys, lungs and nothing fitted the bill of what I was going through, and my tonsils were fine.”
“I had in my head that I needed to see my GP first. Because I know how busy our emergency department is, I work in that environment and I did not want to be another patient my colleagues had to deal with,” she said.
At 11am on 4 July, Paige went to her GP, barely able to walk, hanging her head for gravity, she was rushed to hospital. Paige was triaged for back pain and it wasn’t until the ED doctor saw her and said: “Paige, you probably have Sepsis”.
Within 10 hours of seeing her GP, Paige was in Intensive Care fighting for her life.
“Our doctors and nurses are our advocates in healthcare, the ED doctor was mine in the case of sepsis,” she said.
It all happened really quickly saying: “I know sepsis is a serious complication of an infection, like blood poisoning. Your body can’t clear the infection and the immune response spirals out of control, causing collateral damage. The poisons from the infection and my immune system spread in my blood and caused low blood pressure, liver and kidney damage”.
Paige’s cause of sepsis ended up being from pneumonia, she was able to recover from the pneumonia quicker but it was the sepsis that washed her out. She spent 5 days in hospital and a few weeks recovering at home.
“This will be my biggest message that you’re never too young to get sepsis. And as a nurse everyone I meet now who might look unwell or have other symptoms like a high temperature – I will go through a sepsis screen with them – it only takes minutes to be the difference for saving someone’s life in Critical Care like I did, or dying.”
On her first day back at work after recovering, by doing this simple screen Paige picked up two patients with sepsis who needed Critical Care.
Just ask, could it be sepsis?
- Every four seconds someone in the world dies of sepsis.
- In New Zealand sepsis kills more people than lung, breast, and bowel cancer combined.
- It can occur in any clinical setting, and is the leading cause of in-hospital death.
- In the Waikato region, up to 1 in 1000 people are admitted to hospital with sepsis every year, and 20% of those people will die.