A MUM who thought her son had a tummy bug after a sleepover was shocked to discover he had a deadly condition which left him fighting for his life.
In January, Beau Parkins, 10, had returned home early from his friend's house complaining of stomach pain – which his Mum, Catherine, passed off as a sickness bug.
But just two days later, Beau, who lives in Fulham, London, was hospitalised with sepsis, unable to move or speak.
"He'd wake up in the night screaming," Catherine, 40, explained, "apparently, it genuinely feels like every part of you is dying".
Beau's sepsis was the result of his appendix perforating some weeks earlier, his mum, a doggy daycare business owner explained.
According to medics at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, his appendix was leaking toxins into his body – causing his inflammation rates to be around twenty times above normal.
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"At the hospital they firstly couldn't believe that he was still conscious because of the inflammation levels," Catherine explained.
"The surgeon came to speak to me and said 'listen, this is bad – this is sepsis.
"Whatever you do, don't start Googling the rates of recovery from sepsis, concentrate on Beau having an appendectomy and we're going to do everything that we can," she explained.
Beau had an appendectomy – surgery to remove the appendix – and his other organs were also cleaned up to try and remove as much of the infection as possible.
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Catherine was told she had brought Beau to the hospital just in the nick of time – if she'd waited one more day, he could have died.
"It was awful – it literally felt like the world stopped turning and I couldn't hear what she was saying and it was just echoes.
"That was the worst because I thought 'how can this be happening?' I kept saying to her 'he was ok yesterday morning," she said.
"After the surgery he just slept and would be in agony when he woke up," she added.
Because there was still a high level of infection in his stomach, medics put a drain through his nose and down into his stomach.
"All the infection was building up and that helped to get rid of it," Catherine explained.
"There was a bag of what I can only describe as this toxic-looking green stuff coming out of his stomach, they emptied it every hour at one point," she added.
Beau was eventually discharged from hospital on February 11.
After a slow and steady recovery, the lad is now more or less back to his normal self although Catherine said that he does need to rest more than usual, otherwise he can become unwell.
The dog lover is now keen to share Beau's story to raise awareness of sepsis and its symptoms.
Catherine said: "First of all, trust your instinct.
"Beau didn't have typical sepsis symptoms, however, I just had this horrible gut feeling as a parent that something wasn't right with my child.
"They said to me that if I had let him go to sleep that night, he wouldn't be here with us," she added.
What are the signs of sepsis you should never ignore?
If you, a loved one, or in the case of medical professionals their patient, feels “severely sick”, doesn’t appear to be themselves and shows any of the following symptoms, sepsis should be suspected:
– Loss of appetite
– Fever and chills
– Difficult or rapid breathing
– Rapid heart rate
– Low blood pressure
– Low urine output
If a person is suffering these symptoms and they are thought to have suffered an infection – pneumonia, abdominal infection, urinary infection, or a wound – sepsis is a likely cause
"Because Beau was ready for bed and I was like 'no, we're going to go up to hospital', I promised him that we'd only be five minutes," she explained.
"Sepsis just feels like such an unknown thing still.
"The number of people that I spoke to that had to Google it, it's not one of the most commonly known things," she said.
"Just go with your gut instinct as a parent – you do know when things aren't quite right for sure," she added.
What is sepsis?
The condition is always triggered by an infection – but it is not contagious and cannot be passed from person to person.
Most often the culprit is an infection we all recognise – pneumonia, urinary infections (UTIs), skin infections, including cellulitis, and infections in the stomach, for example appendicitis.
Typically, when a person suffers a minor cut, the area surrounding the wound will become red, swollen and warm to touch.
This is evidence the body's immune system has kicked into action, releasing white blood cells to the site of the injury to kill off the bacteria causing the infection.
The white blood cells and platelets form blood clots in the tissues around the cut.
Blood vessels swell to allow more blood to flow, and they become leaky, allowing infection-fighting cells to get out of the blood and into the tissues where they are needed.
This causes inflammation, which appears to us as the red, warm swelling.
When sepsis happens, this system goes into overdrive.
The inflammation that is typically seen just around the minor cut, spreads through the body, affecting healthy tissue and organs.
The immune system – the body's defence mechanism – overreacts and the result is it attacks the body.
It can lead to organ failure and septic shock, which can prove fatal.
Bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites can all trigger sepsis – though the most dangerous culprit is bacteria.
In developing nations, the condition remains a leading cause of death.
Known by its colloquial name "blood poisoning", sepsis is also often referred to as a "flesh-eating disease".
What are the three stages of sepsis?
Sepsis affects the body in three distinct stages.
An infection invades a specific part of the body – pneumonia affects the lungs, for example – triggering the immune system into action.
The germs and toxins produced by the bacteria or virus leave the original site of infection and enter the bloodstream.
This causes the inflammatory response known as SIRS (systemic inflammatory response syndrome).
Individual organs throughout the body become affected and begin to deteriorate.
In severe cases, this can lead to organ failure.
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More than one organ stops functioning, and the patient experiences cardio-circulatory failure that leads to a sudden drop in blood pressure.
This is known more commonly as septic shock.
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