Magdalena Malec told the South West News Service that she had to have both of her legs, her right arm, and the fingers of her left hand amputated after she contracted sepsis at the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital. (She was initially admitted with an ectopic pregnancy.) Magdalena also needed a kidney transplant to save her life.
“Now my life is not a life, it is vegetation—a fight for life,” she says. “I was waiting for six months for the amputation of my limbs, with stinking and decaying legs and arms.”
“Nothing will restore what I had,” she continued. “I will never paint my nails again, I will never make a ponytail for my daughter. I do not trust doctors and I am very skeptical about all medical appointments and diagnoses.”
Magdalena says she learned she was pregnant in December 2014, only to miscarry a few weeks later. She had heavy bleeding and stomach cramps, but was sent home from the hospital with painkillers and anti-sickness tablets only to find out during a later hospital visit that she had experienced an ectopic pregnancy (which happens when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus).
“I have been left on my own, starting with re-learning how to walk, comb my hair, eat, and brush my teeth.”
While she recovered, Magdalena developed extensive ischemia (when blood fails to circulate properly) in her limbs, which then became infected with gangrene, causing the tissue to die. She later discovered this was caused by blood loss and sepsis, which the hospital failed to pick up.
It took six months for her to have surgery to amputate her limbs, and she had to return to the hospital three times a week for dialysis, which lasted four hours each session. She says her relationship with her partner broke down during this time.
What Is Sepsis?
Sepsis is a life-threatening complication of an infection. It affects more than 1.5 million Americans each year, and kills about 250,000 each year, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms generally include a high fever, rash, itchiness in the legs, blue limbs, and difficulty peeing.
There is no one cause of sepsis, but it can be caused by a range of illnesses including pneumonia, a UTI, and a skin infection, the CDC says. If it’s caught early enough, it can be treated with antibiotics.
And, as Magdalena shows, it can be life-altering. “I have been left on my own, starting with re-learning how to walk, comb my hair, eat, and brush my teeth,” she says. “From the very beginning, everything was a big challenge for me. I would wake up and not know what I should do with myself.”
Magdalena says she dreams about having “decent living conditions” and living “as normally as possible.” However, she’s currently stuck in regular hospital appointments and is susceptible to infections because her immune system is weakened by the medicines she takes to support her kidneys.
A spokesperson for Luton Dunstable University Hospital told South West News Service that there were “missed opportunities to recognize the progressive clinical deterioration of [Magdalena] and act accordingly, including the timely administration of antibiotics.”