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Grandmother and grandson who had sepsis at same time ‘lucky to be alive’

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A grandmother who contracted sepsis which made her hallucinate, have “blotchy skin” and turn the “colour of stone” later found out that her four-year-old grandson had the condition and Strep A at the same time as her, with the pair being “lucky to be alive”.

Lorna Conaghan, 63, a retired business control analyst from Gourock, Scotland, and her grandson, Alfie Crawford, four, had sepsis at the same time, and Lorna “just couldn’t believe it”.

In September 2022, Lorna was due to have a shoulder replacement, but on the morning of the surgery, she “did not feel right” and felt “on edge and weak” – but put it down to nerves.

Little did she know this was her first warning sign of sepsis.

After informing the doctors, they soon realised that one of her organs was infected and she was admitted to the hospital’s high dependency unit.

The following day, Lorna was diagnosed with sepsis as her skin began to look mottled, and doctors told her that she “would have been dead” if it was caught any later.

After having antibiotics and a few more hospital visits, Lorna began to recover, but it has taken her 11 months to “go back to normal” and have regulated blood pressure.

When Lorna was in hospital, her grandson Alfie, who was three at the time, had chicken pox and a cold, which developed into sepsis and Strep A.

Lorna thinks that because Alfie’s mum knew about her symptoms of sepsis, it helped her realise something was wrong.

Alfie’s lungs were “full of pus”, so he was put on a ventilator and was in an induced coma for over a week.

He also had to “learn to walk again”, and slowly has been able to make a full recovery – with Lorna saying the family are “so lucky to still have him”.

Lorna told PA Real Life: “Alfie got sick when I was in hospital, and when I found out I just couldn’t believe it.

“I think me having sepsis made Alfie’s mum realise that he had more than just a cold and chicken pox.

“We’re both so lucky to still be here and that Alfie is back to running around and having balls of energy.”

On July 4 2022, Lorna broke her arm after slipping on her dog’s tennis ball and ended up needing a shoulder replacement.

On the day of the surgery, September 30 2022, at Inverclyde Royal Hospital, Greenock, she began to “not feel right” but put it down to nerves.

She said: “I told the doctors and they tested me for Covid, but I was negative, and after a few more tests they thought one of my organs might be infected.

“They thought it was my heart to begin with, but they couldn’t figure out what organ it was.

“The biochemist worked out which antibiotic would best kill the infection, so I was put on that straight away.”

Lorna stayed in the hospital for nine days, with seven of them being on the high dependency unit.

She said: “They thought it was my kidneys, so they were trying to get them functioning again.

“With hindsight, it was terrifying, but I didn’t realise how serious it was at the time.

“I was a strange colour, the colour of stone, and I was all blotchy.

“Doctors said if they caught it much later, or if I wasn’t in hospital, I would have been dead.”

Four weeks later, Lorna was admitted to the high dependency unit again after her GP noticed she had extremely low blood pressure and low heart rate.

She said: “I was so confused – when family members would visit me, I’d ask them to leave because I was hallucinating and didn’t want them to see me like that.

“I thought there was a castle outside the hospital – I thought I was seeing it outside my window, and I remember thinking that we’ll have to go there once I’m out of hospital.”

Since then, it has taken Lorna 11 months to get “back to normal” and her blood pressure regulated.

She said: “I’m still having problems with my liver, but now I’m just tired. It’s really taken it out of me. I can only take the dog so far, I’m just so tired all the time.”

While Lorna was in hospital, Alfie’s mum informed her that he was feeling unwell.

Stephanie did not want to worry Lorna when she was already sick, but it turned out that Alfie, who was three at the time, had also contracted sepsis.

Lorna said: “He came home from nursery with chicken pox, and also had a bit of a cold.

“Then it just got worse – he was having terrible pains in his back, and I think Stephanie had just listened to what I had said about my symptoms, and it made her realise subconsciously that he might be more unwell than he is coming across.

“They called the paramedics, and that night he got a lot worse – when they arrived at A&E, she took him up to the desk and said, ‘We’re going to have a dead child if we don’t do something’.”

Within half an hour, Alfie was admitted to intensive care at Glasgow Children’s Hospital and doctors soon realised his lungs were “full of pus” and that he had sepsis, which had turned into Strep A.

So, Alfie was put on a ventilator and was in an induced coma for over a week.

“Doctors made it clear to Alfie’s family that it was indeed life-threatening and that he was very lucky to be alive

Lorna Conaghan

Lorna said: “He had to learn to walk again – he was so weak after he woke up.

“Doctors made it clear to Alfie’s family that it was indeed life-threatening and that he was very lucky to be alive.

“His legs were so weak – he hadn’t eaten much while being poorly.”

After having antibiotics and being in the induced coma, Alfie is now “running around”.

Lorna said: “With me, I’ve had a good life, but it was so unfair to think that little Alfie could have died – he hasn’t had a life yet.

“We’re just so lucky to still have him with us.

“This whole experience has made me appreciate everything – when I take the dog for a walk I have a sit down on the bench and take in all the lovely scenery.

“I have treated every day since Alfie and I got better as a bonus day in my life.”

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