When Kelly Strudwick, 25, went to see her doctor in 2013 with another urinary tract infection (UTI) she was prescribed the same antibiotics that had worked many times before.
But this time the antibiotics did not work. A urine test found that her infection, extended-spectrum beta-lactamase Escherichia coli (ESBL E.coli ), was only susceptible to two antibiotics, amikacin and meropenem, and they had to be administered intravenously in hospital.
Kelly, from Kent, received two separate rounds of meropenem in hospital. The first, a day course, did not work and her GP sent her back for another five-day course. A week after being discharged for the second time, she collapsed with intense stomach pains and was unable to walk.
By the time she arrived in A&E she had a high temperature and her pulse was more than double the normal rate. The infection had spread to her blood and by the next morning she had developed sepsis.
Now in her own room on the high dependency unit she was again given meropenem, this time in her neck.
Two days after arriving in hospital, despite receiving meropenem and now doxycycline, she was moved to intensive care.
She began hallucinating, believing she was being held captive in Buckingham Palace. As she was given a bed bath she screamed out, thinking she was part of a medical trial.
Her family, now crowded around her bed, were warned that she may not make it through the night.
Fortunately she began to improve and after another 10 days in hospital she was allowed to go home – although a nurse visited for the next 10 days to administer another intravenous antibiotic, ertapenem, once a day.
The resistant E. coli in her bladder means Kelly suffers persistent relapses and has needed meropenem again. Now her GP does not prescribe antibiotics until her infection has been identified – so he knows exactly what antibiotic it will be susceptible to.
It took Kelly three months before she was able to return to work and she still struggles with her experience in the hospital. Some nights she sleeps with a hockey stick by her bed and doesn’t like the dark because it reminds her of the hospital ward and the hallucinations.
“Even now I won’t come home to a dark house, if I know my husband won’t be here I have to switch the lights on,” she says.