In 2017 Kim Smith was rushed to hospital in Elda, Spain, by her husband Steve, 63, after waking up one morning suffering from intense back pain and feeling like she “was going to die”.
Now the 61 year old is due to undergo an extremely rare double hand transplant after losing all of her limbs to the sepsis she developed from the UTI.
Back in 2017 doctors diagnosed her with sepsis and almost immediately put her into an induced coma, which lasted nine weeks. She was flown back home to England in a coma after six weeks where she spent three more weeks unconscious in Milton Keynes Hospital.
When she woke, surgeons told Kim her hands and legs would have to be amputated as they had gone black and completely died.
She was then taken to Bedford Hospital for the major surgery and spent over three months recovering, before attending Queen Mary’s Hospital, in Roehampton, for rehabilitation.
Kim, from Walnut Tree, Milton Keynes, then had to learn how to sit up and move again.
She said: “For almost six months, I was just in bed until I got to go to rehab. I didn’t know how to sit up as my muscles had just gone. It was horrible!
“I could see that it was obvious that my limbs needed to be amputated. When the doctor said it I just said ‘Yes that’s fine. Get it done!’ I knew enough to see they were useless and that nothing else could be done."
She is currently on the waiting list for a double hand transplant at Leeds General Infirmary, which has successfully performed 14 life-changing transplants since 2016.
Kim, who used to work as a hairdresser and cannot work since the amputation, says she misses her hands most of all as she cannot do things for herself.
Husband Steve, who was a vehicular collection and delivery driver before Kim's illness, is now Kim's main carer. She also has health assistants who help with showering, dressing and other personal care.
After the transplant, Kim hopes to be able to cook, sew and do everything for herself again, as well as spreading awareness about sepsis all over the country.
The preparation for a transplant includes ensuring Kim has immunity to a range of illnesses. She is currently awaiting chicken pox vaccinations, which is the last step in her preparation before undergoing the surgery.
Kim's experience with doctors was overall positive, however, she says she suffered abuse from several nurses.
“Sadly at each hospital, there was always one bad nurse. The first physically abused me, the second was very rude to me for needing help and the last one refused to let me have privacy, which was really difficult to cope with.
“Because of my time in hospital, my mental health was at rock bottom. I’d learned all I needed to get on with my life so they let me go home after.”
Kim had never heard of sepsis before she was taken ill, which is why she decided to post about her journey online, to raise awareness about sepsis and its potentially devastating effects.
The UK Sepsis Trust reports that five people die from sepsis every hour in the UK. However, they suggest that with knowledge of the symptoms and early diagnoses, preventable deaths from this condition can be stopped.