Girl with Grit
Author: Lauren Hunsberger | Photography: Darren Hendrix | Posted In: Meet | December 2022
Katy Grainger faced one of the most the harrowing health scares imaginable. Now, she’s back stronger and with more purpose than ever.
Katy Grainger was in her happy place—her second home on Kauai, Hawaii—when she got a small cut on her hand. “No big deal,” she thought.
After a few days, she noticed the cut wouldn’t heal. On Friday, September 14, 2018, she decided to get some oral antibiotics from a walk-in clinic on the island. Worst case scenario, probably a staph infection, maybe MRSA. At the clinic, her vitals were fine; she didn’t even have a fever.
So, what happened in the following two days was completely shocking to her and her family.
“My story is very much a cautionary tale. Please know that this can happen to anybody,” Grainger says.
First came the mental decline. On the evening after she visited the clinic, she went to bed not feeling great but thought it was just a harsh reaction to the antibiotics or possibly the flu. In the middle of the night, however, she became so disoriented that she fainted and fell (most likely trying to get to the bathroom), breaking her left foot and spraining the right ankle.
She was alone in the house that weekend and already experiencing extreme cognitive issues, so she went back to bed. “The fact that I didn’t think I needed help at that point was already a huge red flag something was wrong,” she says.
By Sunday morning, her body was in full shock, in and out of consciousness, and her neighbor had to rush her to the emergency room.
“I remember crying, telling her my hands and feet are on fire,” she says. Grainger didn’t know what was happening, but she and those around her knew things were going downhill rapidly.
“With sepsis, every hour you wait to get to the hospital, you have an eight percent higher chance of dying,” she says. “And I had slept 10 to 12 hours that night. It was a very dire situation to say the least.”
Grainger was intubated and induced into a coma at a larger hospital on O’ahu and treated for septic shock. “My hands and feet had started to turn purple; I could see my circulation was shutting down,” she says. They began immediately treating her with fluids and antibiotics, which is the correct protocol.
She was admitted into the ICU in hopes that her body could fight the infection. When she eventually woke up days later, her life, body and health were altered forever. “They told my husband, Scott, and two daughters, if your wife makes it, you need to be prepared that she will likely lose her hands and feet.”
Through the next two weeks, Grainger was in a haze. She stayed on the island for a while and attempted some recovery procedures with a hyperbaric chamber and other healing modalities. But eventually she flew back to Seattle and prepared for what she knew in her gut was inevitable.
“Almost exactly a month after I woke up from the ICU, I had the first surgery to have my feet amputated,” she says. “I waited to have the surgery on my hands. I could only process one major loss at a time.”
Cut to more than four years later, Grainger models for Rad Power Bikes, trains multiple times a week (often with Bellevue Club trainer Nancy Black), is writing a book, and works on the national board of Sepsis Alliance, an organization for sepsis advocacy and education.
“Even after four years, I’m still getting back to normal. But I’m doing all these things I never thought possible again,” Grainger says. “The human spirit can handle situations you think you can’t. I got a second chance to be alive and I’m going to do a lot of good with it.”
Aside from the work Grainger does with Sepsis Alliance, she created multiple social media accounts with different purposes: one to educate the public about sepsis and how to recognize the signs. The other to advocate for amputee and disability awareness.
In addition, she does talks all around the country, raises money and, in general, provides a lot of hope for others. “I always knew I wanted to be an advocate for something big, but I never knew what that would be. Then, I was given this opportunity to inspire others, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Follow katy: @Katysepsisemputee on Instagram and TikTok
Watch Katy: Search Katy Grainger on YouTube to Join the almost 300,000 viewers of her talk.