When Nikita Harden, 33, went bowling, she hoped for a fun date night with her boyfriend – but she ended up fighting off a life-threatening infection.
The young mum-of-two from Norfolk scratched her thumb on the inside of a bowling ball.
She brushed it off as a minor cut at the time, but later that night began experiencing the symptoms of sepsis.
It was her boyfriend Jordan that recognised the beginnings of a tracking line on her arm – a red line that continues to get longer – a symptom of the condition.
Nakita, a sales manager said: ‘I didn’t think anything of it at first. You get scratches all the time.
‘I said to my boyfriend Jordan, “My thumb doesn’t feel very good”, and he looked at it before asking to see my arm.
‘He saw little red bits on my arm. It wasn’t obviously a tracking line at that point. We were just a little bit concerned, but I didn’t feel poorly. I was just tired and wanted to go to sleep.
‘He said, “Well, if it gets worse, you’re gonna have to go to the hospital because it could be sepsis” and I was like, “What?!”‘
Jordan had read an article online about blood poisoning and checking for tracking lines.
Dr Ron Daniels, BEMFounder and joint CEO of UK Sepsis Trust tells Metro.co.uk that tracking lines alone aren’t a symptom of sepsis – but are sign of an infection.
He explains: ‘A tracking line that tracks towards the centre of the body from an infected cut, bite or sting is called ascending lymphangitis.
‘It’s a red line that follows the course of the lymphatic system upwards towards the centre of the body. You’ll always see them going up towards the heart.
‘They’re a sign there’s an infection and it’s spreading. They are not on their own a sign of sepsis – they’re the sign of a skin infection which will require antibiotics. You should always seek medical attention the same day.
‘If you’ve been given antibiotics but you’re getting worse, not better, go back to your GP. Just ask, “could it be sepsis”.’
Ron says there are 245,000 cases of sepsis in the UK each year and 48,000 fatalities as a result – one in ten of those are caused by skin and soft tissue infections like Nakita’s.
Unfortunately for Nakita, after going to bed that night, her condition did worsen, and when she woke up in the early hours of the morning, she was extremely thirsty and so weak that she barely made it downstairs for a drink.
Nakita added: ‘I woke up really, really thirsty at some point in the night. I tried to go downstairs, and I could barely get there. But I needed a drink, so I got there, had a drink, and then clawed my way back upstairs.
‘I told Jordan that I didn’t feel right, and he took another look at my arm. He said we needed to go to the hospital right away as there was now a line.’
As it was the weekend, the emergency room was full of people, and Nakita expected to wait a long time to be seen, but medics also recognised the tell-tale sign of the deadly condition.
She said: ‘A&E was full of people who’d injured themselves on nights out, and I thought I might die between now and getting seen, but they called me through quite quickly.
‘I went through to the doctor and explained the situation. He looked at my arm and said, “We need to get you on some antibiotics intravenously, and you’ll have surgery. We’re going to have to take the infection out of your thumb, and hopefully, we won’t have to amputate.”‘
The doctors rushed to get Nakita into a bed in a bay and administered the first dose of antibiotics. They didn’t want her to move.
Then they operated on her thumb. She said: ‘I was awake while they did it. I tried to watch them. I felt them digging around in the bone and felt a bit queasy. I thought I was going to faint.
‘They got as much of the infection out as they could, but they couldn’t stitch it up because of where it was on my knuckle. They just had to let it heal outwards.’
‘I’ve got two kids. They were what was going through my head. I was like, “What if I don’t see them again?” They’d been at their dad’s the day I’d gone bowling with my boyfriend.’
While Nakita worried that she would no longer have a knuckle after the operation, mercifully, the part of her hand that was removed with the infection did grow back, and she made a full recovery.
She said: ‘I had to go back to the hand clinic for re-dressings and things. I had to keep it super sterile and then it healed. I did feel quite poorly for a while.’
The cut from the bowling ball that allegedly led to Nakita’s ordeal last winter was, according to her, no larger than a paper cut.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to an infection. It happens when your immune system overreacts to an infection and starts to damage your body’s own tissues and organs.
Tell-tale signs of sepsis in adults include confusion, difficulty breathing, a rash that doesn’t go away when pressed, and pale or discoloured skin, lips, or tongue and, of course, tracking lines.
Sepsis needs treatment in hospital straight away because it can get worse quickly. You should get antibiotics within 1 hour of arriving at hospital.
If sepsis is not treated early, it can turn into septic shock and cause your organs to fail. This is life threatening.
You may need other tests or treatments depending on your symptoms, including:
- treatment in an intensive care unit
- a machine to help you breathe (ventilator)
- surgery to remove areas of infection
There are around 250,000 cases of sepsis a year in the UK.
She is hoping that by sharing her story, she will raise awareness the condition.
She stressed: ‘It is so serious, but it’s so easily preventable if you know what to look for. If you think you could have sepsis, don’t hesitate about going to the hospital.
‘Before, I never put anything on small cuts, but if I cut myself now, even if it’s just a tiny nick, I will always put Germolene or something on it just in case.’
The bowling alley, where Nikita claims to have sustained her cut, have been contacted for a right of reply but have chosen not to comment.
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