A talented teenage rugby player almost died after flu-like symptoms she developed after “overdoing it” at training turned out to be deadly SEPSIS.
Jemima Moss, 17, who plays for Worcester Warriors Women, spent a week in intensive care on life support after contracting the flesh-eating disease.
Initially, her parents thought she had the flu, but realised she was seriously sick when she collapsed at home and was rushed to A&E in agony.
Doctors at Worcestershire Royal Hospital initially believed her appendix had burst, with her heart rate and white blood cell count also dangerously high.
But CAT Scans and exploratory keyhole surgery confirmed Jemima had sepsis, septic shock and bilateral pneumonia.
Over the next few days she suffered multiple organ failure and even said goodbye to her best friend as she slipped in and out of consciousness.
Shocking pictures show Jemima lying lifelessly is her hospital bed wired to a life support machine as friends and family members feared the worst.
But against all the odds, Jemima, a back-row forward, managed to pull through and incredibly was back playing rugby six months later.
Jemima, of Worcester, said: “I had rugby few training a couple of days before I fell ill.
“I thought I’d overdone it because it was my first time training was with Worcester Warriors so felt a bit tired.
“I was due to meet my friends, but felt sick so I had a bath and put myself to bed. That’s where it really started.
“Over the next few days, I just got progressively worse. I couldn’t move. If I go out of bed, I would just collapse.
“I couldn’t make it to the toilet or to the bathroom so I was just in the bed feeling awful.
“One night, it worsened. I was lying in my bed awake all night. I had a fan and water spray to cool me down.
“I tried to get to mum’s room but I collapsed and my parents said they heard a big thump. My mum came like running into my room wondering what was wrong.
“We slowly went into mum’s room after that. She called 111 and they sent an ambulance.
“At the hospital I was connected to all sorts of machines.
“I was separated from my mum, Marijke, for around nine hours when I first went in and my dad, Andy, had just flown back from Milan where he was working.
“My brother, Dylan and sister, Meggie, had joined me at a hospital and my best friend’s mum was there too.
“They finally came into ICU and saw me looking lifeless in bed. For the next week, that was pretty much me.
“A few times I was weaned on and off life support but I wasn’t strong enough to maintain it.
“I remember this sad moment with my best friend, Evie, when one time I was weaned off life support but slipped back under.
“My family and Evie and her mum, Rachel, were there and as they were walking out I remember saying goodbye to Evie.
“I was holding her hand and not wanting to let her go and my sister was there as well and everyone was really upset.
“They told me that I asked them if I would wake up again, which was the saddest bit for them.”
Jemima defied the odds to survive and just under a week later, was taken off life support on GCSE Results Day on August 23 last year.
She said: “I didn’t think about my results at that point, because I was still really weak, so I was finding out about everyone else’s.
“After a nap, it was just my mum and dad in the room and I thought about looking at them.
“I asked if I could open the envelope. They were like, ‘Are you sure?’
“I wanted too though. I opened them and I was delighted with my results. They were really good and I was really pleased.”
After a week in intensive care, she was finally given the all clear and transferred to Riverbank Paediatric Ward to continue her recovery before returning home on September 2.
Tests later revealed the sepsis has been caused by a bacterial infection she picked up while in South Africa on holiday earlier that summer.
She added: “A few weeks after my discharge they found a bacteria growing in one of my swab tests called staphylococcus aureus.
“So that bacteria caused an infection, and the infection caused sepsis which caused septic shock and the bilateral pneumonia.
“As I had septic shock it caused multiple organ failure, pneumonia and was leading to death – but the hospital saved me from that.
“I realise that I’m incredibly lucky to have survived sepsis.
“I am truly thankful to all the brilliant staff in the hospital for the care they gave me and for saving my life.”
Worcester Warriors hooker, Lark Davies, was amongst her visitors as she fought off the potentially deadly infection that nearly killed her
The England international spent over three hours by her bedside, along with the Warriors Women’s Coach Jo Yapp.
Jemima has now returned to action for the Warriors’ Development Squad after making a full recovery.
Since her ordeal, she has decided to carry out a week-long work experience placement on November 26, shadowing the same doctors and nurses that saved her life.
She said: “I think it’ll be an incredible experience because they really motivated me to think about pursuing a career in medicine.
“It will be really nice to see how they do it but not from a patient perspective, but as an onlooker and actually be able to help other people have happy endings.”
She is considering a career in medicine once she finishes her A-levels next year but still harbours the ambition to turn professional in the sport and represent England.
She added: “I am also incredibly grateful for the support from the Worcester Warriors team for helping me get back to my previous strength and fitness.
“Six months after I became ill, I was back playing rugby again.”
Jemima and Worcester Warriors have now teamed up with The UK Sepsis Trust to raise awareness about the condition.
They are holding a special fixture for Sepsis Awareness Day on December 1 at Sixways Stadium in Worcester.
She said: “I’m so extremely proud and pleased that Worcester Warriors Women are now sponsored by The UK Sepsis Trust and that, as a club, we can help spread awareness and encourage more happy endings like mine.”
Her father, Andy, an engineering consultant who has worked with Formula One teams Williams, Renault and Lotus in the past, said: “One of the keys to being aware of sepsis is that it started like a cold.
“Her mum just felt it was a cold and she was in bed and then it sort of got worse to be like the flu.
“It went from just having a cold, fever and being a bit weak. It escalated really quickly. Being aware of those first symptoms really important.”
Andy, who was in Milan working ahead of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza when his daughter fell ill, rushed back immediately to support her.
He added: “It was not very clever at all, but to be honest, at the beginning it was just a suspected burst appendix. Because of that, I wasn’t overly worried.
“But when I got back and into the hospital, my wife hadn’t seen her all day and then we were taken into a room to be told how serious it was
“It was a bit of a wake-up call to think that it might be the last time we see her alive.
“The reason we’re working with Warriors is, obviously, she’s a player there but she had only trained with the team once when she got ill.
“They were really fabulous in bringing her around and revitalising her.
“It gave her a bit of a mission to get back into rugby quickly. When she left the hospital, they took over the whole of the post-illness management.
“They were working with the hospital, working with the school, working with a physiotherapist to bring her back up to being game ready.”
Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is a life-threatening reaction to an infection that kills 44,000 people a year in the UK.
Sepsis is often difficult to diagnose because early symptoms can be confused with other conditions.
The name and logo of The UK Sepsis Trust will be prominently displayed on Warriors Women’s shirts throughout the season to raise awareness.