Model ‘nearly lost leg’ after contracting sepsis from blister caused by new heels

A model is lucky to be alive after she contracted deadly sepsis from a blister caused by a pair of new shoes.

Model Gemma Downey, 23, felt her shoes rubbing against her heels while she was walking to the train station on her way to an appointment.

Gemma, from Billingshurst, West Sussex, noticed that the chafing had caused a blister on her right heel and changed into a more comfortable pair.

But within a day she was being treated in hospital for early onset sepsis

Doctors cautioned that if she hadn’t acted quickly she could have lost her leg had the infection taken hold.

Now, she is speaking out in a bid to educate others about the dangers of sepsis and trust their instincts.

Gemma said: “I thought if it’s happened to me, I’d like to warn other people about it.

“I couldn’t believe that something so insignificant could cause so much damage.

“I am very lucky that my condition was spotted early.

“I’ve had that so many times, I just didn’t think anything of it- so many times, especially with new shoes.

I’m thinking if it has happened to me , I’d like to warn other women about it, I want them to know if they do get a blister and feel bad, to trust their instincts and get it checked out.”

Gemma had worn the espadrilles platforms last week, after buying them in a second hand shop last year and only wore them a handful of times.

But after a few hours she noticed the straps rubbing the back of her feet.

She explained: “It started off as my shoes rubbing on the back of my foot, it sort of broke the skin, like a cut.

“At some point it looked like it was forming a tiny blister- I had a plaster on because I didn’t think it was anything significant but later I did notice it had a strange colour- it went downhill from there.

“I was wearing normal every day shoes, they weren’t high heels or anything, just a pair of platform espadrilles.

“I noticed they were hurting me a bit when walking but I wasn’t wearing them for an extensive period of time or anything.

“I started noticing I couldn’t walk properly and was limping and was in pain a lot more than normal.

“My foot had swollen right up and was travelling round my ankle area and the pain was absolutely awful.

“I just dropped to the floor in agony and that really hurt, it was getting more and more swollen. “

It was then when Gemma decided to get it checked out and went to the doctors, where she was prescribed antibiotics.

However she kept feeling worse so she went to A&E at Worthing Hospital, where the doctors couldn’t find anything concerning.

The next morning Gemma woke up feeling even worse and being sick and was then when she went back the doctors who told her she was showing the early stages of sepsis and needed to go straight to the hospital.

Gemma stayed two days at Worthing hospital where she was treated for sepsis and cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection, and was discharged.

“I had pains all over my body, I had chest pains and trouble breathing, I knew something was seriously wrong,” she said.

“I was still being sick.

“I went to my doctors appointment and he said my heart rate was sky high, my blood pressure was really really low, my temperature was high.

“I was told I was showing early stages of sepsis but thankfully I was able to get treatment before it could escalate to anything further.

“My skin had started getting blue and by that point the actual blister got a lot bigger.

“I know it can be fatal – the doctors told me I was lucky I had acted on it and went to check it out because it could have been more serious. “

Gemma is only able to wear flip flops and sliders for the next three months which will also affect her job as she normally has to pose wearing heels or tiptoe a lot.

She added: “Everyone assumes it was stiletto heels that caused it but the shoes I was wearing are very popular at the moment, they’re in trend, just normal every day shoes.

“My consultant told me I can’t wear shoes for the next three months at least, while it heals.

“It won’t stop me from wearing heels because I love heels but for now I will need to see how the healing process goes and then see when I can start wearing shoes with backs again.”