It can start with nothing more than a cut; but the effects of sepsis can be life destroying. Yet every year in the UK there are 150,000 cases of Sepsis, resulting in 44,000 deaths- more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined.

What causes Sepsis?

Sepsis is caused by the way the body responds to germs, such as bacteria, getting into your body. The infection may have started anywhere in a sufferer’s body, and may be only in one part of the body or it may be widespread. Sepsis can occur following chest or water infections, problems in the abdomen like burst ulcers, or simple skin injuries like cuts and bites.

Sepsis is a life threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It leads to shock, multiple organ failure and death, especially if not recognised early and treated promptly.

Sepsis can be caused by a huge variety of different bugs, most cases being caused by common bacteria which we all come into contact with every day without them making us ill. Sometimes, though, the body responds abnormally to these infections, and causes sepsis.


Awareness of sepsis and the signs is still low, but a new film about the condition and its devastating effects on life hopes to change this.

Starfish follows the true-life story Tom Ray, who believes he has food poisoning, but is belatedly diagnosed with multiple organ failure and sepsis, necessitating the amputation of his legs from the knee and his arms from the elbow.

Promoting the film on ITV’s This Morning, Tom told presenters Ben and Holly about his ordeal which stemmed from a cut in the gum from a dentist- ‘I just started feeling incredibly ill, very confused, very sick with a very high temperature and feeling like I was going to die. I woke up in a coma five months later.’

The family say Tom’s disability destroyed their lives and they were forced to sell their house. Tom is now back in work with a ‘very understanding’ employer.

Such is the scarring to Tom’s face that his wife, Nic, hasn’t been able to kiss her husband since. Despite years of operations to rebuild his face, Tom remains disfigured.

So what are the signs?

As with most life-threatening conditions, speed is the key when it comes to recognising the signs and taking action.

The main symptoms include:

• Slurred speech, which is triggered by a lack of blood supply to the brain.
• Mottled or discoloured skin anywhere on the body.
• Extremely painful muscles due to a lack of oxygen.
• Passing no urine in one day, as the kidneys stop working properly.
• Severe breathlessness. The body senses there isn’t enough oxygen getting to the brain, so it increases the ‘drive’ to breathe to increase it.
• Chronic tiredness and swelling of the affected area.

Earlier recognition of the condition could save 14,000 lives each year in the UK.

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