Scots teen diagnosed with sepsis and leukaemia after suffering leg aches

Emily and her mum Amy
-Credit: (Image: Edinburgh Live)


A Scots teen was diagnosed with sepsis and leukaemia after going to A&E with a sore leg.

Emily Kyles, 18, from Liberton in Edinburgh, said she was feeling 'weird' for months but put it down to the stress of school and exams. But one day in May last year, her leg started to ache while she walked home from school.

She ended up staying in bed for three days as the pain got worse. When Emily went to her GP, she was told she had a virus.

However, the aches and pains didn't subside, so Emily eventually went to A&E at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Blood tests revealed abnormalities and after a subsequent CT scan and X-ray, Emily was moved from the infirmary's A&E after 11 hours to the acute medical unit.

Shocked Emily was then told at 5.30am she not only had a blood infection, but also blood cancer leukaemia.

Recounting her double diagnosis, she told Edinburgh Live: "For me, it just didn't click with me what they were saying. I just said 'okay'. I was so unwell at that point. My mum instantly broke into tears and had to go and phone my dad."

She added: "I'm not sure if I hadn't had the sepsis, we don't know when or if I'd have been diagnosed with the leukaemia."

When looking back, Emily said along with the tiredness and leg pain, she also had bruises everywhere which is a common symptom of leukaemia.

She said: "Looking back at the pictures in the months before, I did look ill. But no one clocked then."

Emily on her 18th birthday with her mum Amy and best friend Kirsty
Emily on her 18th birthday with her mum Amy and best friend Kirsty -Credit:Emily Kyles

Emily was just 17 at the time and had planned a fun holiday with her friends. She also had secured a place at Queen Margaret University to train as a primary school teacher.

However, her diagnosis shattered her plans. After going into hospital on May 5 last year, it would be October before she was sent home. The blood infection turned out to be sepsis and Emily had to be put in a medically induced coma for a few days. After eight days, she was moved from intensive care in the adult's ward to the Sick Kids to be treated for the cancer.

Her CT scan surprised a lot of people working in the radiography department.

Kirsty and Emily at school
Kirsty and Emily at school -Credit:Edinburgh Live

Emily recalled: "They remember me from my scan - before they had even met me. A lot of them saw it. They were surprised that I'm here now after seeing it. The infection was in my whole body."

The sepsis had been so severe, her organs had started to shut down. Despite being weak from the infection, Emily then had to start chemotherapy straight away. She was unable to walk or even hold her phone. From going into A&E, It took Emily five months before she could walk again.

She said: "Because of the sepsis, I basically had to learn everything again. I couldn't lift my arms, I couldn't lift up my leg, I couldn't even lift up my head. I got hoisted about. Because I couldn't walk, I got hoisted into a wheelchair and they would take me into the garden of the children's ward. It was amazing, just to get fresh air and feel the sun. When I was allowed out at first, I had been inside for one month."

Emily praised her parents for their strength.

She said: "I would not have been as strong as they were. they were there every single day, they'd swap over and take turns to stay with me. They didn't show they were sad at all."

The teen now plans to resurrect her holiday plans as soon as possible - though has to stay in the UK for about a year after her stem cell transplant due to her poor immune system.

She said: "You have to start all over again - it's like the immune system of a baby. I am currently cancer-fee and they assume it's to continue to go that way. They do a bone marrow aspirate and that's where they would find the cancer if there is any."

Emily is fundraising for the children's cancer ward at Sick Kids, the Lochranza ward, where she spent six months. You can find more information and donate here.

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