An elementary school teacher who suffered with flu-like symptoms later developed sepsis that left her with rotting legs before she had all ten toes amputated.
Skeeter Hockett, from Michigan, booked an appointment with doctors in March who sent her home after dismissing fears that she had the flu.
But the 42-year-old’s condition worsened in the following weeks before she was taken to hospital and told that she had developed double pneumonia.
She was sent home to recover but she began vomiting and coughing up blood with a temperature of 103.5 degrees.
The mother-of-two made a trip to the emergency room the following day, which was the last thing she remembered before waking up from a coma two weeks later.
Skeeter Hockett (left and right), from Michigan, was diagnosed with sepsis as well as gangrene that had set in on her toes after she experienced symptoms including vomiting and coughing up blood with a temperature of 103.5 degrees
Skeeter eventually had a six-hour operation to remove all ten of her toes but her legs had recovered enough to be spared
She was then told by doctors that she had developed sepsis in both of her legs, which now required amputation, as gangrene – a condition where a lack of blood circulation causes body tissue to die – had begun to set in on her toes.
Skeeter overheard doctors saying that there was a ‘heartbeat’ in her legs, which indicated that blood was still circulating successfully, and managed to plead with them to delay the amputation to see if her body could successfully grow healthy tissue.
She spent the next 42 days in hospital, being closely monitored, unable to see any visitors due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Skeeter was finally able to return home in late April to see her 13-year-old son Wilder and daughter seven-year-old Adaira where she began her long road to recovery.
Skeeter (pictured before her sepsis diagnosis) has since had to take life one day at a time to cope with both the physical and mental side of her recovery
In July, Skeeter had a six-hour operation to remove all ten of her toes but her legs had recovered enough to be spared.
She later underwent further surgery to extend the length of her Achilles to make walking more manageable. She has also had multiple skin grafts on her feet.
Skeeter has since had to take life one day at a time to cope with both the physical and mental side of her recovery.
She has been unable to return to work as a teacher for the foreseeable future with her immediate goal being to improve the distance she can walk – which is currently limited to 30 feet.
Skeeter currently has medical consultations twice a week as part of her ongoing recovery.
She later underwent further surgery to extend the length of her Achilles to make walking more manageable and has also had multiple skin grafts on her feet
She said: ‘It all started when I began to feel really tired. By six o’clock each evening I was ready for bed. I started to suffer from a temperature, so I went to the doctor and they told me that I didn’t have the flu.
‘A few days later after my health continued to decline, I returned to the hospital and this time they said I had double pneumonia.
‘On the night of March 14, I felt worse than I ever have done before. I was coughing up blood, vomiting and I had soiled my bed.
‘I went to emergency room the next morning and that’s the last thing I can remember before waking from a coma two weeks later.
‘When I woke up and they told me they were going to remove both my legs below the knee, but I was adamant they were not.
Skeeter was finally able to return home in late April to see her 13-year-old son Wilder and daughter seven-year-old Adaira where she began her long road to recovery (pictured together)
‘I remember one of the medical staff saying that there was ‘a heartbeat’ still in my legs, so I just repeated this over and over to the doctors.
‘In the end, they said they would wait it out and told me that if I had any further signs of infection, I had to let them know immediately.
‘In the end, all my toes were amputated, but my legs were spared.
‘I stayed in the hospital recovering for forty-two days, but wasn’t allowed any visitors due to COVID-19 restrictions which made things so much more difficult.
‘I finally was able to return home at the end of April and see my daughter again which was an absolutely incredible feeling after spending so much time apart.
‘I have since had operations to remove the gangrene from my feet and to extend my Achilles to give me a better range of movement in my feet.
‘Trying to adapt to a ‘new normal’ has been one of the toughest things.
What are the key symptoms of sepsis? The ‘silent killer’ that can cause death in minutes
Sepsis, known as the ‘silent killer’, strikes when an infection such as blood poisoning sparks a violent immune response in which the body attacks its own organs.
It is a potentially life-threatening condition, triggered by an infection or injury. Around 245,000 people develop sepsis in the UK each year and 52,000 die, according to the UK Sepsis Trust.
Instead of attacking the invading bug, the body turns on itself, shutting down vital organs.
If caught early enough, it’s easily treated with intravenous antibiotics and fluids, but these must be given as soon as sepsis is suspected – it strikes with frightening speed and, for every hour of delay, a patient’s chance of dying increases 8 per cent.
Sepsis is a leading cause of avoidable death killing 44,000 people each year
The early symptoms of sepsis can be easily confused with more mild conditions, meaning it can be difficult to diagnose.
A high temperature (fever), chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and rapid breathing are also indicators.
A patient can rapidly deteriorate if sepsis is missed early on, so quick diagnosis and treatment is vital – yet this rarely happens.
In the early stages, sepsis can be mistaken for a chest infection, flu or upset stomach.
It is most common and dangerous in older adults, pregnant women, children younger than one, people with chronic conditions or those who have weakened immune systems.
The six signs of something potentially deadly can be identified by the acronym ‘SEPSIS’:
- Slurred speech or confusion
- Extreme shivering or muscle pain
- Passing no urine in a day
- Severe breathlessness
- Skin that’s mottled or discoloured
Anyone who develops any of these symptoms should seek medical help urgently — and ask doctors: ‘Could this be sepsis?’
‘I hate that phrase because I know my life will never be the same again.
‘Before I loved to go berry picking and rock collecting and at the moment those things are just not possible.
‘I was an elementary school teacher and now my work is walking from the kitchen to the couch.
‘I have a lot of anger about what has happened. Sometimes I feel like there are toes stuck under the skin of my feet that I need to pull them out, but of course there’s nothing really there because my toes have been removed.
‘If I overdo it and spend any prolonged period of time on my feet, then they swell up and become really painful and itchy.
‘It’s frustrating, but I have to make sure I don’t push myself too hard.’
Despite her frustrations, Skeeter is very pragmatic when it comes to her ongoing recovery and is willing to take each day as it comes.
‘The road is a long one ahead of me, but I just have to keep driving along it,’ Skeeter said.
‘I know that if I had waited any longer I almost certainly would not be here today. If anything is off with your body, you are your own best advocate.
‘Don’t suffer in silence. If something is wrong, don’t wait. Make sure you go to the doctors.
‘For me now, it’s about taking it day by day, and step by step. Literally.’