Teacher has both legs removed after 'flu-like symptoms' turn out to be sepsis

A mother-of-two lost both her legs and is set to lose her fingers too after her ‘flu-like symptoms’ turned out to be sepsis.

Julianna Bransden, 44, spent Christmas with her family for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic last December in Pembrokeshire, South Wales.

But the joyful festivities were ground to a halt when Julianna’s auntie in Northern Ireland was taken ill on Christmas Eve and unexpectedly died of sepsis days later.

A shaken and grieving Jullianna then went to bed when she started feeling under the weather on New Year’s Eve. Her family didn’t think anything more about it.

But the primary school teacher’s condition declined rapidly overnight and she became bedridden.

Julianna’s husband Tim said she couldn’t ‘lift her head off the pillow’ and was unable to check her phone, let alone get into a car or wait in A&E for hours.

Phoning 111, Tim was told his wife just needs to get some bedrest, but he decided to call for an ambulance anyway.

This decision might have saved his wife’s life.

In sepsis, the body’s immune system became a wrecking ball when reacting to an infection, destroying tissue and organs.

The earlier it is spotted, the better chance a patient has of surviving.

But knowing if someone has sepsis can be tricky as the symptoms – a fever, rapid heartbeat, slurred speech and breathing difficulty – look a lot like other ailments.

Sister Jac, who owns a veterinary practice in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, said: ‘The doctors told us after that Julianna’s body was basically compensating for her, and had hidden how bad and ill she really was.

‘She’s young and healthy but suddenly fell off a cliff. In a timeframe of 30 minutes, her heart had stopped twice.’

When she was first through to Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest, Julianna was suffering from aggressive pneumonia, influenza and invasive Strep A.

Jac added: ‘They said Julianna was in a 10-litre hydration deficit and was in septic shock.

‘When she first went into hospital, she was so dehydrated they said that her lips looked like if you touched them, they would have cracked completely.’

Julianna would then be diagnosed with sepsis and spent 66 days in ICU.

‘There was a nurse there that had been working for eight years, one for 22 and another for 10 and they all said they’ve never seen a patient crash that dramatically,’ Jac added.

Julianna, who lives in Narberth, woke up from a coma with severe damage to her hands and feet and had to undergo surgery to amputate her legs below the knee.

She will also lose most of her fingers due to sepsis, which can cause the body to make too many blood clots, cutting off nutrients and oxygen from body parts.

‘We were just desperately praying that she would just survive. I think with sepsis, people just think you either die or you survive,’ Jac said.

‘But with Julianna’s condition, we want to raise awareness that it’s not just being in hospital and being a life or death situation.’

In 2015, 23,135 people died from sepsis, where sepsis was an underlying or contributory cause of death, per the Office of National Statistics.

Diagnoses of sepsis are on the up, the NHS adds, because medical professionals are getting better at spotting it early.

Treatment isn’t complicated or expensive and usually involved IV antibiotics, IV fluids and supplemental oxygen.

Hope isn’t gone yet, however. Julianna has begun to talk and will soon return home in a wheelchair, with her family raising money on GoFundMe to get their home adapted for her and to pay for prosthetics.

‘We’re now very confident that she’s coming home,’ Jac added, ‘her character as well.

‘She’s determined she’s not going anywhere.’

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