UK: The UK Sepsis Trust And 全tarfish' A Powerful Story Of A Sepsis Survivor: Why Raising Awareness Is Key To Saving 14,000 Lives Each Year

Last Updated: 13 September 2016
Article by Mina Hinsch

This week I was privileged to attend a reception at Deloitte introducing a new feature film 'Starfish'i hosted together with the UK Sepsis Trust. The film is based on the experience of Tom Ray who survived sepsis. This week's blog features an article written by Dr Ron Daniels BEM, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust and a global expert on sepsis, together with Tom Ray who recounts his first-hand experience of recovering from the devastating consequences of sepsis.

Sepsis, or blood poisoning, is the reaction to an infection in which the body attacks its own organs and tissues. The disease presents in a variety of ways, rendering diagnosis difficult (Box 1).

Box 1: Some of the symptoms of sepsis include:

Slurred speech or confusion

Extreme shivering or muscle pain

Passing no urine (in 18 hours or a day)

Severe breathlessness

'I know something's badly wrong with me'

Skin that is mottled, bluish or very pale

Source: Sepsis kills... but together we can beat it, The UK Sepsis Trust, 2016ii

If not spotted and treated quickly it can rapidly lead to organ failure and death. At the age of 38, after a lifetime of good health, Tom Ray contracted sepsis overnight. Both of his arms and both of his legs were amputated, and most of his face was removed. After five months in a coma, he woke to find that he had a new baby son. Sixteen years on, he is working as a motivational speaker, supported by his remarkably strong family support network.

This October, the UK Sepsis Trust is working with a number of film producers and distributors on the general release of a new feature film 'Starfish', which tells the tragic yet hugely uplifting story of Tom, his wife Nicola and their two children. Tom's experience shines a light on the urgent need to raise awareness of sepsis and improve the way our country handles it. Moreover, Tom's story stands as a reminder that every day in the UK, thousands of inspiring survivors continue to fight the battle against this devastating illness.

Tom's story

"Despite it all, I feel like the happiest man in the world. Sepsis cut me down in my prime. It tried to overwhelm and destroy me, but with the support and inspiration of my family I fought back, and I beat it. It's been the challenge of my life, but I have dealt with every setback, taken every small opportunity to make progress, and now I feel strong.

Waking from my coma in hospital, I couldn't remember who I was, and I didn't recognise my wife. My arms, my legs and my face had been amputated. I couldn't understand why. 'Sepsis', they said, a random killer infection that strikes without warning. I'd never heard of sepsis, but I soon learned that it affects over 150,000 people every year in the UK, resulting in some 44,000 fatalities.iii

44,000 deaths, every year! Imagine a Premiership football stadium, full of supporters, then every person there suddenly dying without any warning. Think about all the husbands, wives, partners and children that are left wondering why. Sepsis strikes like a wildfire in a forest, it changes lives and snatches them away in a matter of hours.

The condition can develop rapidly following even the mildest of infections, like a urinary tract infection or a sore throat. For reasons little understood, the body's immune system overreacts to the initial infection, attacking its own tissues and organs.

The real difficulty from a medical point of view is that the onset is hard to diagnose, with varying generalised symptoms including vomiting, high temperatures and body rashes. Sepsis will often strike at the point where the body's immune system is lowered for some reason. In my case, I'd recently had dental intervention, and it's possible that the infection was introduced then. But nurses, doctors and even Intensive Care consultants can easily miss the signs of sepsis. My early symptoms were reported to my GP and he disregarded them; when he saw me on return from hospital with my amputations, he broke down in tears.

I remained in hospital rehabilitation for seven months and over the next five years I underwent a long series of painful operations to reconstruct my face. I now have two robotic arms, myoelectric hands that grip and rotate and two false legs. My employer, the catalogue clothing company, Lands' End, helped me get back into the workplace, to develop new skills and to be involved with the world again. I will never forget that they gave me a chance to start afresh when no one else would look at me.

I work, I drive, I'm a grateful husband and a proud father. I go to the football on Saturdays. I've built a strong network of friends and supporters and I work actively to maintain a positive mind-set that places teamwork and compromise at the heart of all my activities. My wife Nicola (Nic) has saved my life on many occasions with her unstinting devotion. I owe everything I am to her. Every morning when I wake up, her smile greets me like sunshine.

I'm proud to have survived sepsis. I'm proud to have beaten it.

At the same time, with every week that passes, I'm reminded in the news that someone else has fallen victim. Often it's a child, like the two and a half year old little girl I heard about recently; five years on, her mother still can't look at her photograph. There are a thousand such instances of children who die from sepsis every year. And I recall the story of the middle aged mother of two young boys admitted to hospital with flu-like symptoms who died there from sepsis within twelve hours. Her husband's simple, dignified, words stick in my mind: "I feel lost." I think of the 78 year old 'Nana' who thought she was having an off day and went to bed to rest while her granddaughter went to Tesco to buy her some soup, but while she was away, Nana died alone of sepsis.

All these people, all these thousands of them, they are my people. We are connected. We stand and suffer together, we are weak and strong, and we are dying and living and remaining defiant together. Their memories are with me.

Making the film 'Starfish' has been a unique experience. It's very strange to have your own life portrayed on screen. I started out as an actor, so being on set and being involved with the production was a bit like finally going home after all these years. Sitting with Nic watching the premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival, I realised just how unbelievably grateful I am to have beaten sepsis.

It has been the fight of my life. I did it for myself, for my beautiful wife and my amazing children. For every other single person affected by sepsis, the whole world over. And I'm glad I did."iv

Following my attendance at the reception and preview of the Starfish film I really do feel privileged to share this article by Dr Ron Daniels and Tom Ray in the hope that you might go and see the film for yourselves, and more importantly that, for the sake of Tom Ray and thousands of other sepsis patients, 'Starfish' really does help to raise awareness of this devastating disease.

However, raising awareness is only part of the solution. To identify the early stages of sepsis health professionals still rely on traditional diagnostic tests, which usually take time to provide results, time that sepsis patients don't have. In July 2016 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published the guideline on sepsis recognition, diagnosis and early management.v The guideline recognises the importance of early assessment of and evidence for the diagnostic and prognostic value of blood markers and early monitoring information for sepsis. New point-of-care testing and digital monitoring of patient's biometrics are now made possible by advancements in digital health technology. These innovations enable sepsis patients to be diagnosed and treated earlier in both hospitals and homecare settings.

While these developments are too late for Tom and the many other people who have suffered from the consequences of undiagnosed or delayed diagnosis of sepsis they have the potential to transform the management of sepsis and reduce the risks for future patients. We will revisit this issue and the impact of new technology developments in a future blog.


i , Twitter @StarfishTheFilm,, #StarfishUKST



iv Tom Ray on Twitter @tomray99, e-mail:


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you致e read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com痴 content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd痴 services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with 渡o disclosure in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user痴 hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend痴 name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user痴 personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user痴 personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the 添our Profile page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions