Sepsis: Mum's five-month wait to learn daughter died from condition she had never heard of

  • Video report from Hamish Auskerry

A mother who lost her daughter to sepsis said that she didn't find out that she had died from the condition until five months later.

Michelle Christopher lost her 17-year-old daughter Chloe in 2014, but had never heard of sepsis before her cause of death was read out at her inquest.

In December 2014, Chloe had told her mum she didn't "feel well," before collapsing in front of Michelle and her best friend.

Chloe was taken to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr where she died later that night.

She had had an undetected urine infection, but the only symptoms she had were cold or flu-like.

Chloe Christopher, 17, died with sepsis after collapsing in front of her family

Michelle Christopher said of the inquest: "They read out all different formalities and they said then that Chloe had suffered with an E. coli urine infection, which led to multi-organ failure, cardiac arrest and then sepsis.

"I just couldn't believed it. Sepsis? What's sepsis? We hadn't heard of sepsis, we hadn't heard of it. On leaving court we were just dumbfounded, we were flabbergasted."

In Wales, over 2,000 people die each year from sepsis from approximately 8,000 cases, according to Sepsis Trust UK.

Ms. Christopher said she began doing some research after the inquest and found out that many cases of sepsis go undetected.

Now, she says she wants to help other families by raising awareness of the potentially fatal condition which is responsible for one in five deaths worldwide.

The latest guidelines by Sepsis Trust say it should be treated with the same emergency reaction as heart attacks or strokes

Ms. Christopher said: "I think it's helped me anyway with my grieving telling people Chloe's story and what happened.

"Hopefully then knowing what we went through maybe other people may not go through the same. It's horrific."

She said the details of the condition are little-known to the general public, so wants to campaign to improve awareness and the rate of diagnosis.

"We need it more on your face. Like in England, you've got the signs on the English ambulances, we need those on the Welsh ambulances.

"It's empowering people, the general public, and also the medics to ask that simple question – Could it be sepsis?

"Because obviously it's secondary to an infection, so you would have had an infection somewhere in your body, but then it's just gone that step further and you're turning septic."

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, who looked after Chloe, said they are working to educate their staff on the condition.

A spokesperson said: “As a Health Board, we support our staff to recognise the early signs and to identify any patients they suspect at risk of sepsis. We educate staff around the immediate steps to take with anyone suspected of fighting the condition.  

“At regular points throughout the year, working with the Sepsis Trust, we conduct sepsis awareness campaigns, as well as discussing the signs and symptoms of sepsis with patients visiting our hospitals.

“By making our service users and communities more aware of the signs of sepsis, we can work towards reducing preventable harm and death from sepsis in the future.”

It comes as a new ITV1 documentary will air at 9pm on Thursday exploring sepsis and child bereavement. Actor Jason Watkins and his fashion-designer wife, Clara Francis, tragically lost their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Maudie to sepsis over a decade ago.

Talking about sepsis, Jason described it as a "cruel condition" as it is a secondary illness, and can often mask itself behind common symptoms such as the flu.

Jason said they want to show that a family like theirs has survived the "worst thing that can happen to a parent" after losing a child, and hopes the programme will help others going through something similar.