A little scratch, only a paper cut. Typical office wound, like a pencil puncture or a stapler stab.
Ordinarily no. You work it with your tongue and suck it better. All over, just a scratch.
Germs in ambush
There’s bacteria in your mouth – and bacteria on your skin. Bacteria lurking in the air all round you – and a frightening amount of bacteria on your desk.
You don’t know that of course, because you can’t see it.
So you carry on with the day pretty much as normal, remembering that paper cuts always hurt more than others – just the usual.
Except this time there’s swelling with it. Not just a scratch any more. There’s redness spreading up your hand. You feel hot and sweaty. Your head swims and you can feel the mother of all headaches on the way.
Thankfully, someone dials 999.
They’re quick, six minutes in the most horrendous traffic.
But you’re not there. You’re upstairs in the loo, feeling like hell, shivering, fighting for breath, with your tummy squishing out the most terrible stuff non-stop. Your blood pressure is through the floor and your temperature through the roof.
All this from a tiny scratch?
The paramedics call it in, they have a fix on your condition. Their control agrees. They transport you – with siren and lights. Not even to A&E, straight to ICU. You’re on oxygen, drips and antibiotics.
It’s septic shock, a severe form of sepsis – when your body over-reacts to an infection and goes into meltdown. Your immune system is on the fritz, intent on destroying itself.
The antibiotics don’t work. Whatever the bug is that started this, it’s immune to them – an increasing problem these days, when rescue drugs don’t work. But your medical team have seen sepsis before, they start you on a transfusion.
Impossible isn’t it? Five hours ago you were perfectly normal.
Sepsis – the unknown killer
Like Emma Straker, a beautiful 19-year old girl who had a crash infection just like you. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it, but they set up the UK Sepsis Trust in response – a charity to help victims and advise medical teams how to handle this killer illness.
It’s their emergency toolkit your team are using to treat you. Experts helping experts to save lives.
Two days later you feel like you. A little weak maybe, but well enough to go home.
And that’s when your boss tells you – never again. The whole office were with you every second of the way and they know. So you’ll see a few changes when you get back.
Hiking up hygiene
First thing is everyone reminding each other to wash their hands. Signs in the loo and little folded cards on everyone’s desk – a gentle reminder on your computer’s desktop too. Because they know, one little scratch can devastate your life, like the American lady with her cat.
The place looks cleaner too. More fresh, more sparkly. A hit team came in and blitzed the place, nailing all the germ-traps on desktops and keyboards, phones too – everywhere.
It gets blitzed every night as well, with a Hypersteriliser. When everyone goes home, it mists up the place with a germ-killing ionised gas plasma. Viruses, bacteria, all pathogens are destroyed. Every morning starts fresh and sterile.
They’ve also got a new first aid kit. They can’t stop paper cuts, but they can stop people bleeding all over the place. Those documents you were working on had to be reprinted.
So welcome back, champ – lucky you made it. Now don’t forget to tell everyone how important effective hygiene is.