‘I thought I could cure my UTI with cranberry juice — but then I got sepsis’
'People need to know how bad things can get.'
‘If I’d known how ill you could get just from ignoring a UTI, I never would’ve left it.’
When 20-year-old Maisie Lewis was on holiday in Milan, she felt ‘absolutely fine’ – save for going to the loo a little bit more frequently.
But less than two weeks later, she was rushed to the hospital with life-threatening sepsis.
‘I had hardly any side effects at first,’ Maisie said. ‘All I noticed was that I needed to use the loo more. That was literally it.’
Masie recognised the symptoms as that of a urinary tract infection (UTI) – an infection in part of the body’s urinary system, such as the bladder or urethra.
For the first four days after noticing symptoms, Maisie tried to ‘flush out’ the UTI with water and cranberry juice.
‘I get UTIs all the time – just like every other woman,’ she explained. ‘Nothing flagged up for me because I’d had them so much worse in the past.’
But it wasn’t long until things took a turn for the worse.
After having ‘excruciating’ lower back pain and pain passing urine, Maisie consulted her GP.
For the first two times, she was told to keep treating the UTI at home by drinking plenty of fluids, but was asked to come in as her symptoms became ‘dramatically worse.’
‘This was minor. But I went from absolutely fine to quite severe within a matter of days, it got progressively worse. I had a bad back and it hurt to wee,’ she explained.
‘I did a urine sample, they told me I likely had signs of a kidney infection, and then I was sent home with antibiotics.’
The antibiotic course was meant to last two weeks, but in the days following, Maisie’s condition rapidly deteriorated.
She experienced hot and cold flashes, dizziness, shakiness, and hallucinations – all common symptoms of sepsis and septic shock.
‘I was hallucinating, which I was told was common for urosepsis it was horrendous,’ she continued.
‘The best way to describe it was like seeing an old film going round and round. I saw myself as a baby, I could hear my grandparents’ voices, it wouldn’t stop.’
After telling her parents, Maisie was rushed to the Prince of Wales Hospital and diagnosed with urosepsis – a type of sepsis that occurs in people with UTIs and cystitis when it is left untreated.
Recalling her time in hospital, Maisie said: ‘It was all so physically and emotionally draining. I wasn’t getting any sleep. I’d never been this ill before.’
During her first two nights in hospital, Maisie was monitored 24/7.
She was hooked up to a heart monitor, where her pulse ‘skyrocketed’ at 130 BPM, and was later told that several of her organs were beginning to shut down.
‘I was close to going into complete septic shock – but luckily they got to me in time. I couldn’t stop shaking, was unable to breathe and I just felt really faint,’ Maisie added.
By her second night in hospital, Maisie’s condition started to take a turn for the better, with her white blood cell count starting to decrease.
‘I was given the strongest antibiotics you can possibly have,’ Maisie explained. ‘I was hooked up to an IV drip; fluids constantly pumping through me.’
The self-employed hair-stylist was discharged after six nights in hospital, but the severity of her health scare meant she was unable to bounce back right away.
‘It took two weeks for me to feel normal again – my job means I’m on my feet all the time, and my kidney infection and sepsis took a big chunk of my working life,’ she said.
‘I had to cancel five weeks’ worth of clients – I just didn’t feel like I could stand. I’ve only recently, in the last couple of weeks, felt back to normal.’
Now she’s on the road to recovery, Maisie, whose based in Cardiff, wants to raise awareness about just how severe UTIs can be.
‘People need to know how bad things can get,’ she said. ‘My body went through so much in such a short space of time.’
‘Every single woman has had a UTI in her lifetime – I didn’t even realise you could get sepsis from it.’
In sharing her story, Maisie wants to tackle the ‘lack of education’ that exists around UTIs – and believes their potential severity should also be taught in schools.
‘None of my friends knew it could get this bad – and when I opened up about it on TikTok, a load of commenters said the same thing,’ she explained.
‘All I’ve ever known is, drink a little cranberry juice and you’ll be fine. It’s just not that simple.’
She added, ‘I’ve since spoken to women who have had their legs and arms amputated – and parents of people who have died – due to urosepsis.’
But it isn’t just fellow women who need to know more about UTIs. According to Maisie, medical professionals need to take the condition more seriously too.
‘Doctors need to be more vigilant,’ she said. ‘Don’t just send people away and tell them to drink more water. If you call up about a suspected UTI, it should be a definite that you go in to see someone in-person.
‘Every single woman has had a UTI – but not everyone knows just how bad things can get.’
To avoid developing life-threatening sepsis from a UTI, Maisie has one piece of advice for people: visit your doctor in person.
‘No matter how small your symptoms may be – make sure you go to the doctors, get antibiotics and get all the help you can,’ she concluded.
‘Don’t just treat it like it’ll pass on its own – it won’t.’
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