A mother who lost her arms and legs to sepsis has taken her first steps on her prostheses – and is determined to go on family vacation again one day.
Allison Friday’s life couldn’t have been more positive when she went to bed on January 31, 2020 – she was ready to start a new job, looking forward to a dream vacation in Croatia with her partner and happy times with her three children.
But just 24 hours later, Allison was in a coma, holding on to a thread.
Her partner and children were told that she had a five percent chance of survival.
Alison, from Hartlepool, had meningococcal septicemia, in which bacteria enter the bloodstream, damage blood vessels and cause bleeding in the skin and organs.
This in turn triggered sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to infection that can lead to organ failure and death.
Notably, she survived and was strengthened by the love of her partner David Richardson, 55, and the support of her children. She learned to walk again – after both her arms and legs were amputated.
Allison, 56, a former drug studies manager, took her first steps with her new prostheses in the Easter sunshine.
Determined now to raise awareness of sepsis, she says, “We have witnessed very emotional events for 14 months that have pushed our family to their absolute limits – ones you never think you will experience.”
“But now I want to raise awareness of the devastating effects of sepsis. It strikes by chance and is more common than you think, and I want to show what amputees have to go through.”
A 40-yard walk in front of her house earlier last month was a major milestone for Allison.
Her greatest achievement since her amputations has given her the determination to build a future with David, her sons aged 24 and 22, and David’s daughter aged 24 – which she prefers not to name because you have a sensitive job.
She said, “People often say I’m an inspiration to get this far – but I just had to do it.” You only have to.”
But Allison admits that since the illness broke out, there have been many moments of despair when she wished she were dead.
When she felt drowsy on the night of January 31st, she thought she might catch the flu.
The next morning she could not get up and noticed a rash on her arms, legs and buttocks.
When he alerted David, he immediately came home from work and took her straight to North Tees University Hospital in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham.
Her work as a clinical project manager for unregistered drugs and her previous work as a chemist meant that Allison already suspected that the redness could be a sign of meningitis.
However, the doctors diagnosed meningococcal septicemia, which then triggered sepsis.
Allison recalled, “From the moment I got to the hospital door until eight weeks later – even though I was conscious that first day and after my 20 days in a coma – I can’t remember anything but a few vivid dreams where I thought I stagger around as a queen and take part in TV survival shows!
“Any knowledge I have about the rest of those two months comes from what people have told me.”
At 9 p.m. on February 1, Allison was put into a coma, and four hours later the doctors told her family to prepare for the worst.
David said, “She kept going, even though they still rated her chances of survival at only five percent for about three weeks. Hopefully every day I would tell the doctor,” Do you think it’s maybe only six percent? “
“Meanwhile, the blackness spread over her limbs and part of her nose as the tissue died.”
“At first I knew she was going to lose her foot and I said, ‘Can you save the shin? ‘Then the shin went black and I asked about the rescue of the knee – and so it went on when all of her limbs went black.
“Your kidney and liver function were also shot.”
Allison struggled and after three weeks she was brought out of the coma and on February 20 – in the midst of the pandemic – she was taken to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire for arms to be amputated for her legs and life .
Fortunately, she can’t remember her despair when she was told her limbs were dead, despite saying friends would rather die than face life as a quadruple amputee.
With infallible devotion, David found positive videos about life with prostheses that he showed her to try to keep her in combat.
In total, she had six surgeries and more than 30 hours of surgery in March and April, as both legs below the knee and both arms below the elbow were removed, and she lost the tip of her nose and part of one nostril.
Due to the restrictions of Covid-19, her children were only allowed to visit her in the hospital on one of her son’s birthdays in May, while David visited her occasionally during her 14 months as an inpatient.
A surprise visit came in April when one of her sons developed Covid and fell and shattered his thighbone, which had to be pinned in place with a metal rod.
In order to move from the hospital in Leeds to the next ward in Middlesbrough to surprise but not shock her, David shared the news of the accident on FaceTime when her son was rolled over to her.
In the meantime, Allison suffered a number of infections and became dangerously anemic.
The prosthetic services were also discontinued due to the pandemic.
But she kept her spirits up for the months that followed by joining her family as they dined together at home every night and watched a video stream on an iPad placed at the head of the table.
Finally, in November 2020 in London, she was fitted with prostheses at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton.
Unexpectedly, the reception of the prosthesis shocked her to the core.
She said, “It was actually very difficult to record because seeing my legs was like a reality check that the rest of my life would be like this. I had to deal with many psychological battles. “
Allison’s physical therapy and rehab to learn how to use the prosthesis and gain strength have also been disrupted by Covid.
The slowly healing new gluteal tissue, which could take a year to replace the one damaged by sepsis, makes sitting excruciatingly painful, which means Allison has to lie on her side when she is awake and sleep on her back wherever the pressure is lower than when sitting.
She said, “It should get better sometime next year, but to get from a bed or sofa to a stand, I have to peep up and throw myself forward. It takes a long time to accept.
“I really have to concentrate to get up. It’s hard work and painful because my legs feel pinched. I even feel pain in my toes which is a phantom since I don’t have any.
“Things are so stressful that I have to sleep two hours just to make toast.”
She added, “Showering and getting dressed in the morning and getting ready for bed also takes an hour and a half with all the medication.
“I have physical therapy at home three times a week, one occupational therapist and one district nurse.”
Unfortunately, when Allison recently got sick, she had recently resigned from a job to start a new similar one, but her new employers withdrew the offer because of her illness – leaving her without health and safety. So she lived on benefits to which she was entitled, savings and David’s vacation.
As a result, they have turned to crowdfunding to raise funds for the equipment they urgently need.
On their GoFundMe page, friendly strangers are asked to raise £ 25,000 for the £ 40,000 they had to spend on equipment to regain their independence.
This includes cyborg-like Star Wars Stormtrooper hands, similar to those seen in video games.
Right now, Allison says the “Claw Hand” prosthesis cannot impart the fine motor skills that the cyborg-style versions can do.
They also needed £ 2,000 for a travel wheelchair, adjustments for the home including a £ 12,000 elevator, a £ 8,000 wet room with an electric dryer that Allison can sit and dry in without a towel, and a custom bidet-like seat for 1,200 Pound the usa.
She cannot use a kettle or cutlery, but also needs a hot water tap, an electronic glass opener and a guillotine for chopping.
They borrowed money to finance some of the equipment, but with Allison losing her job, her finances are very limited.
She said: “Now my goal is to raise awareness of amputees and those with a devastating disease like sepsis and to promote the great work of the UK Sepsis Trust and the NHS, which is why I started my iomwbh. blogspot.com blog.
“It was a long and very hard learning process for me, but I had my first glimmer of hope and now there is a positive light at the end of the tunnel.
“Now I hope to collect enough for the travel wheelchair so that I can get in a car and actually be driven away from my home. My goal now is to hopefully take day trips that I can walk on and maybe another family break somewhere someday. “