Young dancer who thought she had the flu put on ventilator and loses her memory
Taz Hoesli, 22, went from being an active dancer performing on London’s West End to spending a week in the ICU due to sepsis.
Last October, aged 21 and a ‘peak fitness, dancing eight hours a day, doing all the workouts you can imagine’, Taz got what she thought was the flu.
But the now 22 year old, who had no underlying health conditions, ended up in hospital, fighting for her life – she’s still working through the trauma she experienced.
Like most people, Taz didn’t know much about the deadly illness, and now wants to share her story for Sepsis Awareness Day.
‘When you’re that fit and healthy, I think you just think you’re a bit invincible,’ Taz tells Metro.co.uk.
‘But then I started getting fluey symptoms while I was doing a dance job in Newbury.
‘The night before, I just thought I just really don’t feel 100%. But you know, as we all do, we kind of just push through it.
‘So I turned up to the event, which was outdoors, and I started shivering. I wasn’t very hungry. I was kind of having a temperature, getting hot sweats, even though I was cold.
‘When I was at that event, my agent emailed me and said that I had an audition for a West End Show – my dream show.’
Taz felt she couldn’t turn down the opportunity, so went to the all-day audition, dancing and singing – but she was feeling much worse, and had begun experiencing dizziness.
Then she noticed a pain in her right hip, and so she believed maybe she’d pulled a muscle there, and that on top of being ill was making her feel so bad.
‘I thought I could sleep it off, so I went to bed that night but when I woke up in the morning I had excruciating pain. I just put it down to doing too much the day before,’ she continued, and went onto teach the singing class she ran.
Things took a turn for the worse that night.
‘I woke up at 4am, and I had never ever felt this amount of pain in my whole life.
‘I actually had to text my mum who was only in the room to say I can’t even stand up.
‘So that’s when my parents rang 111 and they were told I’ve probably just strained something in the audition.’
Taz was then given painkillers, and though she wasn’t convinced by this conclusion, she trusted the experts.
While on the painkillers, it turned out she had gotten to the last round of auditions for the West End show – so she got a train to London and credits adrenaline with getting her through the last call.
‘I managed to drag myself through London to this studio to do this final singing calls,’ she says.
‘So I didn’t actually have to move, which was obviously helpful because I could barely walk at this point.
‘They said I didn’t look very well when I got there, and I just fobbed off.
‘When it was over and I went back to the train station, I literally fell to my knees. I was in so much pain. I felt so unwell.’
She was put on a train with a chaperone and sent home. A man pick me up at the other side and thought something is really not right.
New symptoms set in: Taz now had a temperature, she began falling asleep midsentence, she couldn’t pass urine, and couldn’t eat. It’s around here her memory is missing, and she has been told what happened next by her parents.
‘My dad was asking me questions, and I was just speaking basically gibberish back to him,’ she says, which is a common symptom of sepsis in it’s later stages.
‘He called 111 again, and luckily when I spoke to the doctor this time, she saved my life.
‘She said, I don’t want to scare you guys, but I’m going to bring an ambulance because everything you’re telling me sounds like your daughter’s got sepsis.
‘And my dad was like, I have no idea really what sepsis is, I’ve seen it on films and that but none of us had any idea of what it properly was prior to me being ill.’
Once at the hospital, she was tested for a UTI, as the symptoms can appear similarly in people, but of course, this isn’t what she had.
‘I had no idea what was going on – I was out of it and couldn’t even answer basic questions the medics were asking me.
‘The next morning, I was taken up to the ICU and put on a high flow oxygen ventilator – and I stayed there for a week.
‘I don’t remember anything at all, apart from small snippets of doctors coming in.’
In this time, fluid was found in Taz’s lungs and she was in respiratory failure. The cause of sepsis was found to be Strep A – which rarely has such complications.
Last year, Strep A was doing the rounds in the UK after an outbreak, and Taz unfortunately caught it during that winter. She was treated with antibiotics to target the illness.
‘It was a very scary time, and I’m recovering still 11 months on,’ she shares.
‘When I was in hospital, I don’t actually think I knew how unwell I was.
‘The scariest part was waking up covered in wires, confused. But I remember being more focused on getting better than dwelling on it.
‘Before I was ill, everyone called me “positive Polly”. Everyone would come to me to get their positive kick.
‘Originally, when I first came out of hospital, I felt like, it hadn’t really affected me that much. I’m just super grateful to be alive.’
However, as she began to process it and eventually start seeing a therapist, she realised she had PTSD.
‘With trauma, sometimes it doesn’t hit you straightaway. Everyone processes trauma differently.
‘And when my me and my therapist worked on the idea of me having PTSD, I was like, there is no way that that can be me – that’s something that only happens to soldiers after the war.
‘But I had night terrors and flashbacks, and I’m still working through that.’
As well as suffering mentally, Taz hasn’t been able to return to dance yet, despite forcing herself to take up teaching again three weeks after leaving hospital.
‘I was worried about getting back to the career of dance and that everyone was moving on without me, and that I would never get back to doing what I loved,’ she says.
‘I was desperate to have some normality.
‘It’s frustrating as someone who was really active before, but now I try to look at it from a perspective of like, everything happens for a reason.
‘I think that this will make me so much stronger than I was before, in the long run.
‘I think it’s important that I try and look on the positive side as well as obviously dealing and feeling all those emotions.’
She has physio, given the Strep A bug manifested itself in her hip and shoulder (though doctors don’t know why exactly).
‘I’m really getting there now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so I’m feeling positive.
‘It’s just that the recovery, especially of the septic arthritis is just grueling. It’s so long. And it’s also slightly unknown.
‘The doctors are trying their hardest to help me out, but it’s very much a trial and error situation. I would say I’m probably about 75% back. I’ve still got a journey ahead of me, but I’m super proud and grateful that I’m at the point of where I am in my recovery.’
Taz still lives with her family, which has meant she’s been supported financially and in terms of her physical recovery. If she didn’t have her family to lean on, she’s not sure how she would have been able to make money to support herself.
Having been supported by The UK Sepsis Trust too, she says: ‘I will forever be grateful for all the work that they did and supported me through it during this recovery. It’s just been invaluable.’
You can find out more about the work The UK Sepsis Trust is doing here.
What you need to know about sepsis
‘Poppy’s story is a stark reminder that Sepsis can affect anyone at any time.
‘Women during or immediately after pregnancy are at slightly increased risk of this life-threatening condition, which arises when the body’s response to an infection begins to cause organ damage.
‘It’s important that women who are pregnant are aware of sepsis and know what to do if they’re worried.
‘If you’re worried that you have an infection, and something doesn’t feel quite right or you’re getting worse rather than better, look for the following signs:
S for slurred speech or confusion
E for extreme pain in the muscles or joints
P for passing no urine in a day
S for severe breathlessness
I for “it feels like I’m going to die”
S for skin that’s mottled, discoloured or very pale
Any one of these six in the context of infection go straight to A&E.’
Dr Ron Daniels, BEMFounder and Joint CEO of UK Sepsis Trust
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