By Liana Jacob
MEET THE inspiring woman whose experience of surviving SEPSIS TWICE within ONE YEAR spurred her on to raise over £5K in THREE MONTHS for charity.
In March 2016, Honda sales executive, Jessica Tuffield (23), from Kent, UK, began to feel lethargic as her energy levels had dropped considerably. She initially brushed off how she was feeling because at the time she had been suffering with a simple chest infection.
However, within the space of two weeks she began having uncontrollable nose bleeds; roughly 10 a day and at random times, which wasn’t a normal occurrence for her. She was driving herself to work one day when she felt very exhausted and her vision began to blur so she immediately pulled over in the nearest parking space. Half an hour into her job, her head was in so much pain she couldn’t function.
Her co-worker dropped her off at her boyfriend’s mum’s house where she slept for the entire day. The next morning, she was feeling much worse and rang her GP, begging for an appointment as soon as possible.
When Jessica was seen by her GP, she instantly noticed something was wrong with her, so after taking her temperature and blood pressure, she referred her to the nearest hospital where she remained for eight hours. They told her they suspected it to be sepsis causing her symptoms, which was her high temperature and low blood pressure, causing her heart to race, but after inserting a thin tube into the veins of both of her arms (cannulas), she was sent home later that evening, where her health began to deteriorate.
She could not keep her head up due to her low energy levels and was constantly vomiting. Her mum called 111 and within 10 minutes, two paramedics arrived at their home. They were shocked that she was sent home from the hospital with sepsis, so they rushed her back to the hospital where she was treated on an intravenous line.
Feeling terrified for her life, she miraculously survived the treatments. Jessica fell ill to sepsis which was caused by her chest infection and due to her immune system becoming weaker, she ended up contracting sepsis again six months later in November 2016.
She has since made it her mission to raise awareness of the potentially fatal illness by working with national charities such as the UK Sepsis Trust and has been named as Miss Charity London 2019 due to her charitable efforts. Jessica was also a Miss England semi-finalist.
Alongside her sponsor, G and M Motors and Kuflink UK, Jessica organised and hosted her own event for Sepsis Trust called The Sepsis Dinner and Dance. She has raised £5,339 for the charity and since the event was so successful they have decided to make it an annual event, which will be dedicated to the Trust, other sepsis survivors and families of those who have lost loved ones.
“The day before I got rushed into hospital by my GP, I had been driving myself to work in the early hours of the morning and I genuinely felt exhausted and I had this gut wrenching feeling that I was not ok,” Jessica said.
“I remember driving along, luckily I was just down the road from where I used to work and my eyes began to hurt and my vision went blurry.
“As I pulled into the workplace and switched my car engine off, I felt petrified that I was losing my eyesight because of how painful my eyes were.
“Within half an hour of being at work I had crashed out in the back of the office room and I could not remove my sunglasses from my eyes because of the bright light.
“My head was in so much pain; my co-worker dropped me off at my boyfriend’s mum’s house and I slept for the entire day, hoping that when I woke up, I would be feeling better. I was wrong.
“The next morning, I remember feeling even worse and I rang my GP and begged for an appointment, when I arrived at the GP surgery, I was seen promptly by my GP who instantly could see something was wrong.
“After taking my temperature and my blood pressure she said she wants me sent straight to hospital, she suspected it was sepsis.
“Looking back, I remember my heart racing and beginning to panic, firstly because I did not know what sepsis was and I was unsure of why my doctor was looking so serious.
“Secondly because I wanted to contact my parents and my partner however simply did not have the time or energy too.
“That evening I was sent home from hospital after being there for eight hours. My arms were bruised from the cannulas which were placed in both my arms.
“I was exhausted from the traumatic day I had. After getting home I began to deteriorate, I became extremely lethargic, I could not keep my head up and was vomiting continuously.
“My mum contacted 111 and within ten minutes we had two paramedics at our home, who were extremely concerned that I had been sent home with sepsis.
“They rushed me straight back to the hospital; if it was not for my mum, I would not be here today. I owe my life to my parents.”
Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) is the immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury. Normally the immune system fights infection, but sometimes, for reasons unknown, it attacks the body’s organs and tissues.
If not treated immediately, sepsis can result in organ failure and death. With early diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics. Sepsis kills 52,000 people a year in the UK and a quarter of all sepsis survivors suffer permanent life changing after effects.
Jessica remained in the hospital for a further week and a half where she was treated with an IV drip.
Her nightmare wasn’t over, as she experienced other side effects, including when she was at a routine hairdresser appointment getting her hair highlighted. After five minutes of having her hair in foil, her hairdresser burned her fingers on it.
“After I was released from hospital and I was working my way through the recovery process, building up my energy and trying to put myself back together again, I had a few bumps on the road to recovery,” she said.
“To my surprise I was unable to get life insurance and was told I would at least need to be sepsis clear for a year, unfortunately I fell ill to sepsis again before the year was up and was again unable to be insured.
“Around June 2016 I took a trip to my usual hairdressers who I had been going to for years and had my usual lot of blonde highlights put through my hair for the first time since I had been hospitalised.
“However, this time was shockingly different; after my hairdresser had started to put the foils into the top section of my hair, she burned herself on one of the foils.
“It had only been on for a matter of five minutes, ‘Jes, is your head hot?’ my hairdresser asked. She felt the foils and said they were boiling.
“I was rushed over to the sink and the foils was opened up and smoke came sizzling from the foil. I was with my partner’s mum at the time and I would say we were both extremely panicked as you can imagine.
“The following day I reached out to my doctor after I had calmed down and was informed that it potentially was a side effect of the sepsis, as sepsis can get into your hair follicles.
“I had to have my hair cut into a bob and was unable to use bleach on my hair for around a year. The following Christmas my partner paid for me to have a full head of extensions to allow myself to build up my confidence once again.
“Having extensions means I do not need to bleach my hair and I was able to get over the anxiety of having foils in my hair again.
“Having sepsis and being a survivor has one hundred percent changed my outlook on my health and lifestyle.
“I have learned that there is nothing more precious than life and not only from my own experience but from the other stories I have been told from those who are not so fortunate, that it is important to take each day as it comes and to never leave it if you’re feeling unwell. Most importantly that sepsis affects everyone differently and we all have different symptoms; the most important question we should ask is, ‘could it be sepsis?’”
For more information visit: https://www.instagram.com/jestuffield/