Alarming details of Katy Grainger’s sepsis infection were covered in the April 2021 issue of Women’s Magazine. The interview took place over two years after Katy lost both feet and parts of her fingers to the infection.
The First Sign of Trouble
Katy had returned to her home in Kauai, Hawaii after visiting her children in September 2018. She noticed a strange-looking purple blister on her hand and was concerned about an infection because of recent storms and flooding that bring dangerous bacteria.
She immediately went to a walk-in clinic to have the blister examined. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic and assured her there was nothing to worry about but to go to the ER if anything further occurred.
Since she did not have a fever, she decided not to be concerned about the blister. But she was not feeling well and just to be on the safe side, she asked a friend to check in on her in the morning. The two women had a friend who developed sepsis and had a leg amputated due to complications.
Katy believed that a high fever always accompanied a sepsis infection. The following morning she was relieved to see that she did not have a fever but still slept most of the day assuming that she had the flu.
Katy woke up feeling weak and vomiting. She immediately sent a text to her friend asking her to take her to the hospital. She could not even walk on her own and found out later that she had sprained her ankle but did not notice it at first.
On the way to the hospital, her feet and hands felt as if they were burning up. She was terrified.
Katy was eventually told by the doctors that she had a condition caused by sepsis called disseminated intravascular coagulation. Symptoms are caused by blood clots in the bloodstream that blocks the flow of blood to various parts of the body including the arms and legs. The condition is extremely painful.
The First Few Days in the Hospital
Katy can hardly remember the first part of her hospitalization. She describes that time through the recollection of others.
The doctors immediately began a regimen of antibiotics. Katy’s blood pressure was so low that a nurse (who is also a friend) later told her that they call her reading of 50/30 as “50 over dead”.
The Diagnosis: Sepsis
Katy’s blood tests confirmed what the doctors had suspected. Katy had sepsis. (please click here for the sepsis definition)
In no time her feet and hands began to turn purple and the blood vessels in her feet and fingers began to collapse. She was later told that had she not been in the hospital when this occurred, she would have died from internal bleeding.
Katy was flown by emergency helicopter from Kauai to the Honolulu trauma center as her lungs and kidneys were failing. The doctors gave her fluids and antibiotics and finally had to intubate her to help her breathe. She was put in a medically induced coma.
Katy was in ICU for one week when the doctors removed the tube that had been placed in her throat. But when she looked at her hands, she saw that the fingertips were dark purple. It was at that moment that she realized she would lose almost all of her fingertips.
Katy’s feet were in the same condition. Katy was treated in an oxygen chamber with hyperbaric therapy every day for three weeks. She kept praying for a response but there was no improvement.
She finally told her husband that they had to face the cold facts that she was going to lose both feet and most of her fingertips. Katy and her husband tried to envision her life after the amputation.
Katy felt better having the surgery in Seattle at the Harborview Medical Center because they would be near their friends. She had the surgery to amputate her feet in October and put the hand surgery off for one more week.
Katy and her husband stayed in Seattle for nine months. She was in a wheelchair with a nurse and her husband attending to her.
Life After Amputation
Katy could not imagine being able to continue her many activities with both feet amputated. And how would she write or type?
Katy suffered severe depression unable to visualize what life might be like. She felt helpless. She was having difficulty coming to terms with what was really happening to her.
Her family was very supportive. She decided to take another approach and fight for survival. Kathy’s family introduced her to the Sepsis Alliance website plus various posts on social media by amputees who succeeded in overcoming the loss of their limbs. One such person is Amy Purdy a Paralympic snowboarder.
Katy Now Calls it Her New Life
She received her prosthetic legs in January of the following year. She was elated at being able to stand after being bound to a wheelchair for nine months. Soon after her “emancipation” their daughter left to study in Rome. Katy joined her several months later. She describes the trip as an “amazing” time.
The trip helped Katy realize that it may be possible for her to live a near-normal life. Kathy has successfully managed sports that most people would not even attempt. She has tried snowboarding, wakeboarding, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Katy explains, “well not every day but I have done it”. She also drives and rides a bicycle.
Education About Sepsis Can Save Lives
Katy wants to make people aware that sepsis does not always cause high fever in its early stages. Kathy’s relying on evidence of fever may have resulted in disease progression.
Kathy wants people to look for signs of sepsis and to see a doctor if there is a suspicion of someone having the disease.
Katy faces her new reality on a daily basis. She acknowledges that it is difficult to navigate. Each day she sets aside a few minutes to think about what she cannot do.
But now she sees her future as being able to conquer almost anything she tries to do. She is an advocate of being positive and living in the now not the past or the future.
The book It’s About Time™ gives general information about sepsis and urges people to get tested when sepsis is suspected. Learn more about sepsis and be diligent.