A dedicated elementary school teacher went to bed with flu-like symptoms and eventually lost both of her legs to sepsis.
Mum-of-two Julianna Bransden, 44, was living a “happy, healthy life” until a sudden illness left her fighting for her life.
Ms Bransden first had flu-like symptoms on New Year’s Eve, a few days after celebrating a big Christmas with her family. After she went to bed to rest, her husband described her as “falling off a cliff,” which deteriorated so much that her heart stopped.
“Julianna’s husband Tim called 111 and they told him to keep giving her acetaminophen, but when she wasn’t better he called an ambulance,” said Julianna’s mother, Linda Burgess The Independent.
“Actually, I lost my sister-in-law to something very similar, so we were very aware that people can get sick pretty quickly.”
Ms Burgess said she received an urgent call to look after her grandchildren, 14-year-old Emilia and 11-year-old William, while Tim was taken to hospital with Julianna.
After admission, Julianna spent 18 days in a coma with doctors working around the clock treating her for septic shock, two cardiac arrests and multiple organ failure. She had developed sepsis as a result of an aggressive form of pneumonia caused by influenza.
Julianna eventually regained consciousness, but the sepsis had caused severe damage to her hands and feet, and both of her legs had to be amputated.
“It was a total shock,” Ms. Burgess said. “We never realized the magnitude of the damage that sepsis could cause and that it could be caused by influenza and Strep A. If you look back now, everything seems blurry.”
Ms Burgess praised her daughter’s courage in the face of the ‘devastating’ illness. She added that Julianna “continued to smile with every step.”
“She amazed the entire medical staff because she continued to be strong, resilient and okay with everything. She just smiles.”
Julianna is currently being treated at Withybush Hospital, having only left intensive care earlier this month.
“She could speak immediately. She was very faint, you could just hear her, but we were so relieved that she came out and was able to recognize us and communicate with us,” Ms Burgess said The Independent.
“It was only some time after waking up that the extent of the sepsis was explained to her. We were devastated.
“Her hands were badly affected, but her feet were causing the problem and it would endanger all of her organs if we weren’t careful, so we made the wise decision to amputate her and once that source of infection was gone, she started picking it up.”
Sepsis is a common and potentially life-threatening condition caused by infection.
A sepsis infection can start anywhere in the body and occur as a result of a chest or urinary infection, an abdominal problem — like a stomach ulcer — or even from cuts and bites.
It is caused by the way the body responds to bacteria. The body’s response to infection can damage its own tissues and organs. Left untreated, sepsis can lead to septic shock, multiple organ failure, and death.
The disease causes 44,000 deaths in the UK each year, according to The UK Sepsis Trust.
Julianna’s husband, self-employed plumber Tim, has been off work since Christmas and is focused on supporting his two children and getting Julianna home.
Julianna’s family, including her parents and brother, who have been by her side since the beginning of her illness, are now helping Raise money to support Julianna’s recovery, which they hope will contain prosthetics. On the fundraising side, donations totaling over £90,000 were raised in less than a week.
The family want to take Julianna home as soon as she is well enough, but the hospital has not given her an appointment as she is still being treated and waiting for her hands to heal.
Ms Burgess said the family was so “overwhelmed” by the support they have received, not only financially for Julianna but also prayerfully. She said her daughter wants to raise awareness about the dangers of sepsis to help other people spot the signs.