After a toddler's limbs fell off in his mum's arms, she's warning other parents about the risks of sepsis, a type of organ failure that can be deadly

AP Photo/Molly RileySeptic shock severely lowers a person’s blood pressure.
  • Abigail Wardle was holding her baby Oliver in a hospital bed soon after he came out of a coma when Oliver’s limbs self-amputated in Wardle’s arms.
  • Earlier at the hospital, Wardle and her husband learned that Oliver might not survive because he went into sepsis, or organ failure, due to an undiagnosed and untreated throat infection.
  • Sepsis occurs when the immune system shuts down and doesn’t fight infections like it’s supposed to do. It can lead to gangrene, or tissue death, as in Oliver’s case.
  • Hand washing, vaccines, and proper wound care are some of the best ways to prevent sepsis.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Abigail Wardle was holding her 11-month-old son Oliver in a hospital bed soon after he came out of a coma when something shocking happened – Oliver’s arms and legs self-amputated in Wardle’s arms.

Oliver was originally sent to the emergency room when Wardle noticed he wouldn’t eat and was whimpering in pain, according to UK-based publication Mirror. At the hospital, Wardle and her husband learned that Oliver might not survive because he went into sepsis, or organ failure, due to an undiagnosed and untreated throat infection.

“It was only when a nurse came over to speak to us and burst into tears that I realised how serious is was,” Wardle told Mirror. “She told us: ‘We don’t know which way it’s going to go but it doesn’t look good.'”

Somehow, Oliver came out of his coma and survived, but not before his limbs detached from his body due to the sepsis, which had led to gangrene, or tissue death.

Now, Wardle is sharing Oliver’s story in hopes that other parents can notice signs of sepsis in their toddlers before it’s too late.

Toddlers are more likely to get sepsis than adults

Sepsis happens when a person’s body has an extreme reaction to an infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. Normally, when a person gets an infection, like a throat infection in Oliver’s case, the body releases chemicals to fight that infection. Sometimes medications like antibiotics or antivirals can help fight it too, according to the Sepsis Alliance.

In some cases, however, the body’s immune system shuts down after the chemicals are released and no longer fights the bacteria, fungus, or other infecting agent. That’s when sepsis can begin. Signs of the condition include trouble breathing, urinating hardly at all or not at all, low blood pressure, and mental changes, according to the Mayo Clinic.


Read more:
Breast milk could carry harmful chemicals like flame retardants and BPA, but breastfeeding is still the healthiest food source for babies

Although anyone with an infection could potentially go into sepsis, people with compromised or weaker immune systems are more likely to develop the condition. For instance, pregnant women; the elderly; people with cancer, diabetes, or lung disease; and children who are younger than 1 year old are at higher risk.

In severe cases like Oliver’s, sepsis can kill body tissue

Sepsis can range from mild to severe, according to the Mayo Clinic, and those will mild sepsis can make a full recovery with the help of antibiotics, IV fluids, and blood pressure medications. If sepsis becomes severe, however, it can lead to septic shock, where the body’s cells don’t function properly. In cases like these, people have a 40% chance of dying from the condition.

Septic shock severely lessens a person’s blood flow, which in turn can cause entire organs, including the brain, to shut down. It can also cause gangrene, where the body’s tissues die. This was the case for Oliver, whose limbs turned purple and green as less and less blood flowed to them. Though his mum urged doctors to surgically amputate the limbs, they waited and the limbs effectively “died,” causing them to self-amputate.

Afterward, doctors cleaned the infected area and stitched it back up so the wound could heal. Oliver, who didn’t sustain any brain damage, is also in the process of getting fitted for prosthetic limbs, Wardle said.

“Some people might feel sorry for us but I feel like the luckiest mum in the world,” Wardle told Mirror. “I still have Oliver with us. He might not have any hands or feet but he is still my smiley, brave little boy.”

According to the Sepsis Alliance, the condition can be prevented through proper hygiene if a person has a wound that has the potential to become infected. Additionally, vaccinations can prevent those susceptible to sepsis from getting sick in the first place. Hand washing is another preventative measure.

“Sepsis is a notoriously difficult condition to spot, and to do so relies upon health professionals being alert to the possibility of sepsis in any patient who is deteriorating without a clear cause,” Dr. Ron Daniels, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust told Mirror. “Outcomes like Oliver’s can be prevented through better awareness of sepsis and by empowering our public to just ask: ‘could it be sepsis?'”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.