Paige Nicholson, 27, remembers falling in and out of unconsciousness, shivering in her bed and not being able to stand up.

"It took every bit of my energy to yell out to my dad for help."

It was a frosty July morning when the then 25-year-old almost died from sepsis, also known as blood poisoning.

The Waikato ED nurse is speaking out today on World Sepsis Day to help raise awareness about the preventable killer that claims more lives than lung, breast and bowel cancer combined.

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Sepsis is a life-threatening organ failure caused by an uncontrolled immune response to infection and every four seconds someone in the world dies from it.

Waikato ED nurse Paige Nicholson, 27, is speaking out about nearly dying from sepsis to help raise awareness. Photo / Supplied
Waikato ED nurse Paige Nicholson, 27, is speaking out about nearly dying from sepsis to help raise awareness. Photo / Supplied

Nicholson said for her the infection first appeared as a cold on a Friday evening after finishing a busy mid-winter shift at Waikato Hospital's ED.

Over the weekend, her condition got worse.

"I felt like I'd been hit by a truck, I felt cold and tired. This brain fog came over me and I couldn't stop shivering," she said.

"I felt like I was going to die."

But even as an ED nurse, she never considered it was sepsis.

"I thought it might have been a kidney infection or something."

Her mum took her in to see her GP who also did not suspect sepsis.

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An ambulance took her to Waikato Hospital's ED where she waited hours before a doctor saw her and thought it could be sepsis.

Blood poisoning was confirmed and it was later discovered she had contracted pneumonia from community transmission.

She spent three days in the intensive care unit fighting for her life.

"I just remember thinking I need to survive this."

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Fortunately, she did and was quickly discharged - but no one told her what might come next.

"I wish I knew that I would have this internal rotting sensation for such a long time.

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"I wish someone had told me that I could expect to feel forgetful or that I could expect to possibly lose my hair."

"I wish someone had told me that just because I'm a nurse. It doesn't mean that I don't need extra support when I go home."

It took her six months to fully recover - for some it takes years.

Patron of the STNZ Professor Steve Chambers, a leading infectious disease specialist at the University of Otago, told the Herald sepsis survivors often require extensive post-hospital care as blood poisoning could lead to damage to the body's major organs, or even amputations, and may require months of recuperative treatment.

Today, the Sepsis Trust New Zealand (STNZ) is launching an action plan to help reduce the number of preventable deaths through sepsis in our country.

The New Zealand Sepsis Action Plan proposes the establishment of a National Sepsis Network (NSN) which would provide national leadership, create a shared sense of purpose and greater awareness of sepsis.

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Chambers said ultimately they want to raise awareness of how serious sepsis is, but also if one could recognise the signs and symptoms early it could save a life.

"We know that major infection in New Zealand accounted for over one in three hospital bed days and $1.5 billion in direct health spending in 2016 and that sepsis costs the same as maintaining the country's trauma centres.

"Sepsis is preventable and through an action plan which will include better use of clinical tools, more sepsis research, education and through fundraising, we can build awareness to save more lives and reduce the impact on the healthcare system which is under additional stress due to Covid-19"

About sepsis:

• Sepsis is a life-threatening organ failure caused by an uncontrolled immune response to infection, and every four seconds someone in the world dies from it.

• The average cost for a person admitted to hospital for sepsis is about $11,000.

• Māori and Pacific people are twice as likely to have sepsis-related hospitalisations and deaths compared to the rest of the population.

• In 2016, major infection in New Zealand accounted for over one in three hospital bed days and $1.5 billion in direct health spending. Many of these patients will have suffered sepsis.