It Started With A Cold – My Sepsis Symptoms

Yes thats right, It Started With A Cold – My Sepsis Symptoms! Pretty scary really, don’t you think! You can read how my symptoms progress over the period of a week and see how they decline! Yet along the way, I have an ‘excuse’ at every step or I debate with myself that nothing is wrong!


My entire story starts on a Monday when I wake in the middle of the night feeling extremely sick.

Now thats not so alarming for me as I’m a long term irritable bowel suffer. I thought I’d just eaten something that hadn’t agreed with me. But I feel like I’m going to puke, which isn’t something I normally do, so in my head I run through a couple of scenarios: 

  • a) What did I have for dinner? – check, that was fine;
  • b) Did my mum cook and put something in the dinner to ‘poison me’? (LOL, yes she has done that before as she ‘forgets’ what I can / can’t eat with my IBS) – check, that was fine;
  • c) OMG! is it food poisoning? – no don’t think so; and
  • d) OMG! Am I pregnant – LOL! – In hindsight I’d rather have been pregnant with another child and go through another C-Section (which wasn’t fun) than go through what would follow with Sepsis!!

So I get up and make some peppermint tea, but I feel pretty nauseous and I get no real sleep that night.


Tuesday I still feel sick and I’m super tired, but I go to work as usual. Just thinking that I’m tired from not sleeping so good the night before.


On wednesday I wake up feeling really rough. I’m now thinking I’ve caught a ‘bad cold’ from one of my daughters as both of them have had colds on and off over the previous couple of weeks. You know a sore ‘raspy’ throat, a runny nose and a cough. I think to myself that that explains why I also feel sick. As typically when I’m ill, its always my stomach that suffers first, no matter what part of my body is affected!

I also got my period at the same time and I thought well that’s just great, no wonder I feel so crap and isn’t that a relief that I’m not pregnant!


I continued to ‘work through it’ thinking I’d feel better in a few days – I really didn’t have time to be ‘ill’. It was a really mega busy time of year for me in my business as a goldsmith. It was late November and I was working full pelt on my christmas orders and client commission pieces. And my colleague Eddie and I were trying to get the studio tidied and set up for our Christmas show!

Sarah McAleer Jewellerysmith - Last Piece Worked On

Sarah McAleer Jewellerysmith – Last Piece Worked On

I take photos nearly every day that I’m working in my studio as a way to record the pieces I make. Isn’t it bizarre that in these last set of photos I took on my phone, I’d staged my clients piece of gold up like a little pac-man eating some flowers. Whilst inside thats exactly what was happening to my blood!!


On the Friday I’d been working on a piece and cleaning our jewellery cabinets. Eddie was in the middle of painting a new cabinet he had been making and cleaning our big window. The smell of paint was quite strong and we had been spraying cleaners, so I opened the front door to the studio to ‘let in some fresh air’.

I noticed about an hour later that my teeth were chattering and I was shivering. But to be perfectly honest I just thought I was cold as the November air coming in through the door was quite ‘brisk’. So I pulled on my ‘workshop’ cardigan to keep me warm! (I never for one moment, thought it could be anything else or that this was in anyway ‘odd’!)


Over the weekend I attended a weekend training class. It was about the body and nutrition and again, bizarrely, we were learning about Blood Cells. A topic I now know in great detail!

I remember not really being able to concentrate on what the lecturer was saying. But the others had been laughing about the speaker being really boring so, again, I didn’t think much about it. 

All of a sudden after lunch I began to feel really really terrible. Heavy even like lead and I realized that my entire body was shaking and my teeth were chattering. Like the previous day, I just think I’m cold so I put on my cardigan. But at the same time I realise I’m also sweating and my hands are clammy and wet.

I had hot water and lemon with me so I took a hot drink, some paracetamol and another painkiller Arcoxia, which I use as I’m allergic to both ibuprofen and codeine. Arcoxia is a strong anti-infammatory drug – good for muscles aches and pains – and it generally kicks in within about 20 mins. Which it did, and I manage to make it through to the end of the lesson.

On my way home I stop off at Tescos to buy a big bag of lemons and a bottle of whiskey. I thought that a few good old fashioned ‘hot toddies’ before bed would do the trick.

And later, Ian and I shared a bottle of red wine.

Early Sunday Morning

I wake up at about 2am on the Sunday morning, totally drenched in sweat and feeling like I might die. I felt SO horrendous BUT I blamed myself for mixing the hot toddies with the wine and thought I had a hangover. In fact I’m cross with myself as I’m still thinking I need to get up and go to the second part of the course and I’m annoyed that I’d drunk too much!

LOL! But really I had only had maybe two whiskies and 3 glasses of wine!

…And trust me, I’ve drunk a helluva lot more than that in the past!!!!

Sunday & Monday

I spend the next 2 days totally comatosed in the bed. And I mean comatosed. I could hardly move, I ached all over and I felt like I was superglued to the bed. Like I was being pinned down by gravity and sucked into the bed with a big magnet all at the same time.

I couldn’t speak (which is a humgous thing for me) and when Ian came in to ask me questions I just grunted at him. The feeling is still ‘oh my god I’m going to die!’ And this is a feeling I will never forget and one that I have to debate with myself and the voices in my head. One minute I’m thinking how totally horrendous I feel and the other I’m trying to tell myself that I’ll be fine in a couple of days!

I had a constant temperature hitting 39 – 40.2 degrees. I continued to totally sweat the bed – so much so that Ian slept on the floor. The reality is that I’ve NEVER done this before – its a big bed and I’m a small girl. I don’t actually remember a time when I’ve sweat so much that my pyjamas were wet! In fact I was so drenched in sweat that you could see the water dripping of the soles of my feet and palms of my hands.

Bizarrely though, at the same time I would swop to being absolutely freezing, my teeth chattered and my whole body shook. At one point I had on winter pyjamas, a vest, wooly socks and my dressing gown with the hood pulled up. I just couldn’t get warm! I talk a bit more about these symptoms in this post Teeth Chattering And Body Shakes.

We all just thought I had ‘a bad flu’ and my mum chortled at me about how this is what happens when you are anti-the-flu-jab and you end up getting the flu yourself. 

Monday Evening

On the Monday evening I tried to watch something on the TV and I remember that I was having a hard time even seeing the screen, focusing or concentrating on what was being said. Like trying to watch something when you are drunk.

So I looked out the window instead and noticed how psychedelic the sky was outside. Reds and flashing yellows. Then, my whole room seemed to turn grey! (There was no psychedelic sky that night and the colours in our room are duck egg blue and warm wood tones.) I’ve spoken already about how Sepsis affected my colour vision in these posts – Psychedelic Red and The Room Turned Grey.

As an artist, this is pretty scary looking back!

Chest Pain

Shortly after this the pain in my chest and back started. Pretty sharp and I thought I might have hurt myself coughing. It really hurts to breathe, I’m short of breath and I feel like I’m being stabbed in the back with a hot dagger. I ask Ian if he’d massage my back, but that doesn’t help and thankfully he convinces me its time to go to the out-of-hours doctor.

Although my breath sounds where pretty clear, the young doctor doesn’t like my heart rate, which is high. Nor does she like the chest pains, the cough, and the fact that I hadn’t moved in two days. So she sent us up to A&E…but thats a whole other story!!!

Now that I know so much about Sepsis, I look back and see that the extremity of what happened to me over those few days in bed were signs for pneumonia and my own sepsis symptoms. It seems soooooooooo obvious now, but really I didn’t know that then.

I honestly didn’t think that it could be anything worse than the flu!

Sepsis Symptoms

But I have some of the classic Sepsis signs and its so important that we are all aware of them at least so that we know when to go for help! Learning to ‘Think Sepsis’ could save your life!

Like these ones…




 #itstartedwithacold #ithoughtihadtheflu #theflu #mysepsisjourney #sepsisvitality