Nicola Daniels - Meningitis and sepsis survivor discusses the importance of 'not giving up' during times of adversity

Meningitis and sepsis survivor, Nicola Daniels, discusses the importance of 'not giving up' during times of adversity.

Mother of two, Nicola from Sutton, Nottinghamshire, previously worked at her local council in the planning department before she retired.

In 2012, whilst at work, Nicola began feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms and noticed a rash on her chest. Throughout the week, her symptoms progressively worsened and just five days later, she found herself struggling to breathe. Nicola’s husband immediately called 111 and the paramedics rushed Nicola to the hospital after being diagnosed with Meningitis and Sepsis. Within two hours, Nicola was on life support and her family were informed she might not make it through the night. This continued for two painstaking weeks for Nicola's family and after being in an induced coma for six weeks, eventually there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Nicola stabilised and underwent multiple amputations, losing both legs below the knee, her left arm, and the fingers of her right hand.

Nicola spent the next six months in the hospital, rehabilitating. "I could go home on the weekends which kept me sane”, said Nicola. “The house wasn’t adapted for me, so there was a lot of transferring and being hoisted, but we managed as a family. Seeing my friends and family visit me at the hospital really got me through this hard time", explained Nicola. Since then, Nicola has continued with her life, looking after her children and returning to work a year later. Despite having an incredible attitude towards her rehab, Nicola struggled with socket comfort; at some points wearing four thick socks and liners to feel comfortable when walking. Nicola also struggled with the weight of her prostheses which she believes led her to having two hip replacements, one in 2018 and one in 2020.

In 2020, Nicola was referred by her case manager to the Dorset Orthopaedic clinic in Burton upon Trent, where she met, prosthetist Alice Hannah and physios Emily Brader and Beth Langley. She was fitted with Pro-Flex Pivot prosthetic feet and a lifelike cosmetic silicone arm. "The silicone technician matched my daughter’s arm rather than mine as I don’t have fingers on my right hand”, said Nicola. “I now don’t leave my home without wearing my cosmetic arm as I find that people tend to stare when I’m without it. No one can tell I am wearing a prosthesis, only under close inspection, and they are always amazed at how lifelike it is. It is also more secure than my previous prosthesis and is easy to put on," explained Nicola. Since her hip replacements, Nicola also took part in Dorset Orthopaedic’s Residential Rehabilitation programme. This included two weeks of bespoke treatment designed to help Nicola meet her goals and give her the confidence to thrive in the real world. Since completing the programme, Nicola has been able to walk up to three miles a day. Also, she can now step into people's homes, whereas before she would need help to do so. "Emily and Beth were great; we went on walks on uneven surfaces and hills which gave me a lot of assurance. The couple of weeks gave me confidence to do things I didn’t think I could do," said Nicola.

Nicola now spends a lot of time with her family, going on walks and keeping up her rehab at home after buying her own exercise equipment. She also likes visiting France, and this year went for three weeks, feeling confident and comfortable to swim every day. Nicola is a positive individual who has used the tools available to her to reach her goals. "One day I woke up and lost my limbs; I struggled to get my head around it all. However, it’s important to not give up, keep those around you close and focus on the things you can do rather than the things you can’t. Speaking to other amputees after my amputation also gave me a lot of help and hope for the future."