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  • Sarah Menzies

The Big V

When Lauren became sick I wanted to know why.


Why would someone young & fit succumb to flu, when usually it would be fought off with a few days in bed?

Why would flu turn to sepsis?

Why could the sepsis not be treated, even in the hallowed wards of Alderhey ?


I did alot of reading into Sepsis, and Influenza A, and Staphylococcus. We went back to see Lauren's consultants as Alderhey, not because I had questions about her treatment, but I wanted to understand the illness.


Her lungs were so infected but she had no cough. They told me the virus and bacteria spread so quickly that her body did not have time to respond. Also, in healthy individuals, like Lauren, the heart & lungs are stronger, so the body fights it off for longer before the warning signs appear. They said sometimes, for unknown reasons, the body responds in an unexpected way. They see it in Alderhey 2-3 times a year, often with healthy teenagers.

I remember saying at the time that if it had been an RTA I could understand it. I in no way want to trivialise death by RTA, it's how my mum died, but in these days of modern medicine it makes more sense than the flu. Although I'm sure I would have had more questions if she'd died that way, or even worse I could have been left with the "What if's"


Lauren had both viral and bacterial infections, and I googled them repeatedly.


Studies on the 1918 flu pandemic, that killed approx 40-50 million people worldwide found that up to 95% of those who died had a secondary, bacterial infection

Influenza A, which is the same strain as the 1918 pandemic, & Staph are a nasty combination, both affecting the lungs. Staphylococcus is a bacteria that often lives on our skin, up our nose even found in our lungs. However, it is also the 'S'from MRSA.


When someone has a strong immune system and it overreacts, the overreaction is itself stronger. This is why sepsis can be so problematic for the young & healthy


But why do we give so little thought to Virus's? It's just a virus, its just the flu. Although in the current climate maybe that's all about to change.


We have anti-viral meds (Lauren was given them), but they don't work against virus's in the same way that antibiotics work against bacteria. With a virus it is mainly down to our immune system to combat the disease.


We all know Cancer is a horrific disease, a killer, the "Big C". No-one calls a virus the Big V. That is why I couldn't understand how it could kill my healthy daughter. Sepsis is the bodies response to the Virus. It is the virus that is so clever and sneaky that it manages to make our bodies turn on itself. Sepsis doesn't kill as many each year as cancer, but it should get some kudos for the amazing speed it does it.


I searched for answers and I did find similar cases to Lauren, where the symptoms and outcome were almost identical, all in healthy teenagers. The shock that this can happen to someone without any warning is so hard to fathom. And yes I know that we keep being told the early warning signs for sepsis, but by the time Lauren had these signs she was already in a critical condition.


I found Sepis information that told me:-

"We do not always know why the body responds in this way and often people who get sepsis are in good health and do not have any long term illness."

.... not exactly helpful!


What I learnt is that we will probably never know the why. I guess anyone who looses a loved one before their time also wants to know why.


We become blase about lots of things, think that we are almost indestructible. I mean we are happily wrecking the planet we live on with absolutely no back-up plan. Clearly we are actually delusional. When something breaks through that delusion we flounder, when the painful reality is we are all going to die, some young, some old.



"Part of the Journey is the End..." Tony Stark

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