A midwife, who battled sepsis just days after giving birth, is taking on the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run to celebrate a year since she overcame the deadly condition.
Heather McHugh, 27, from Kingswinford, gave birth to her third child last May, and a day later started feeling fatigued, which she initially brushed off as post-labour and hormonal changes in her body.
Her saving grace was when she stood up from the sofa and injured her pelvis which resulted in a trip to hospital, where it was quickly identified that she was seriously unwell, with an abnormally high temperature and pulse rate.
Heather spent a week in hospital and received treatment for invasive group A strep. She was discharged from hospital but returned soon after when she developed a rash, which was believed to be a post sepsis reaction.
Heather said: “Luckily for me I was in the right place at the right time when I started to show signs of being unwell.
“I remember the majority of things that happened and I think being a midwife helped with that, but I was also very confused at points and was unable to put a sentence together.
“I suffered with a bad memory for quite a while afterwards, where I would completely forget things and if someone was talking to me I couldn't remember what they had said to me.”
Heather has signed up to the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run on Sunday 19 May and will run the half marathon distance with her sister Chloe, an A&E nurse, who shares her passion for raising awareness of sepsis.
They are fundraising for the Sepsis Trust, which raises awareness of the condition and has introduced screening tools for healthcare professionals. Without the work of the charity Heather believes her husband and children would be living a very different life right now.
She said: “I think there is still a perception that sepsis mainly affects the elderly and the young and while that group of people are more vulnerable, I am young, fit and healthy and because of this it never crossed my mind that I could be so severely unwell.
“As a midwife and someone who has had sepsis, I still feel there is so much more awareness we can raise to help prevent sepsis from happening and to recognise the signs before it's too late for the people and families we look after.
“I feel this is particularly relevant to many of us who are often leading busy lives and put ourselves last. I know this is certainly the case for me as a busy working mum.
“I chose the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run because I was diagnosed with suspected sepsis on 25th May, so it's nearly a year to the date, so it was important to me to mark it with something great.”
To celebrate this year's Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run, Heather features in a new film alongside other runners and well-known Manchester faces showcasing the inspirational poem, Do Something, by Tony Walsh, aka Longfella.
Written by Longfella specifically for the Great Manchester Run, the poem embodies the universal feelings of ambition, motivation and celebration experienced by those who take on the running challenge; and the film sees Longfella's poignant words being spoken by actors, influencers and real runners who connect to them.
Heather takes on the lines:
“Do something to show you are astounding…
Do something and this is how you roll.”
On how she relates to the lines of the poem, she said: “Astounding means different things to different people, but to me it means keeping a positive mentality to show that I wasn't going to let something that could be so negative beat me.
“I love Manchester. My sister went to university there so it reminds me of us spending time together when she moved away from home.
“I was hoping it would be a great challenge to me after spending two months on crutches, give me something to work towards and stay positive, especially with the health problems I've had following sepsis.
“I wanted to turn the experience into a positive by raising money to help people and to support the charity that saved my life. The astounding bit for me will be when I cross the finish line to prove to myself that I could do this despite my struggles over the last 12 months.”