From bravely speaking out about her fight with Crohn’s Disease, to celebrating her joyful wedding last year, the Strictly Come Dancing professional’s journey has played out in the pages of HELLO!. It was back in May that Amy chose to share her breast cancer diagnosis for the first time with us, and since then, her famous fighting spirit has been tested more than ever. Amy opens up about contracting sepsis and HELLO! reunite her with the medics who saved her life…
Watch Amy Dowden shares thanks for incredible gesture amid cancer treatment...
Amy Dowden’s sepsis battle
The scary ordeal earlier this month came two days after Amy had her first round of chemotherapy on Thursday 3 August. "I wasn't feeling too bad that day, just sick, but a couple of hours later I started having a temperature of 37.7 degrees Celsius," says Amy. "At the time, I didn’t realise that having a temperature of 37.5 or above could be fatal for a chemo patient. I just thought it was my reaction to chemo, but as it turned out, I had already got an infection."
On Friday and Saturday, Amy felt better and managed to go for a walk with her dad Richard, who came to visit with Amy’s mum Gillian, on Saturday. "The Strictly producers were checking in on me, and I was sending videos of me on my walk. I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling."
But after she returned from the walk, things started to go downhill. "I began feeling sick and not quite right," explains Amy, while Gillian adds: "Amy’s symptoms got worse very, very quickly. At one point she felt ok, then suddenly she felt very ill – it happened in an instant." It was when Gillian had settled down to watch a film with her daughter, that she noticed Amy was breathless and complaining of a pain in her chest. "She went to stand, then just sort of crumpled back onto the settee," Gillian recalls.
Adds Amy: "I felt freezing cold but I was all clammy and shaking. My mum and dad rang my red card [which provides the chemotherapy team’s contact details and current treatment information] and they said to hang up and ring the ambulance."
Amy wears trousers by Zeynep Kartal with jumper by Bonmarche and shoes by Pretty Ballerinas
How NHS medics saved the Strictly dancer’s life
Richard and Gillian did so, and West Midlands Ambulance Service advanced paramedic Adam Aston and student paramedic Tom Scott were soon on the scene. After conducting a thorough examination, they advised Amy to go straight to hospital, but she was adamant she did not want to go.
"I didn't want to go into hospital; at the time I didn’t realise how ill I was," she says. "I knew it was a Saturday night, so A&E would probably be crowded, and it was dangerous being around people as it’s more likely you’ll pick up an infection. On chemo, you don't have your white blood cells to fight infection," she explains, adding: "We now know I had the infection just before I started chemo, but we were never able to pinpoint what actually caused it."
Picking up the story, Richard says: “Adam and Tom recognised how ill Amy was and they reassured her that she could be isolated at hospital." Gillian continues: "While Adam drove Amy and I to hospital, Tom sat in the back with us and he chatted the whole way, keeping me calm. I felt confident being in their hands."
Amy was taken to Walsall Manor Hospital, where she was treated for a viral infection with an antibiotic drip. At 3am that night, when Amy was stable, Gillian returned home, but the family received a shock later that morning when Ben phoned the hospital for an update. It was then they were told that Amy was being treated for sepsis. "We were in panic mode," recalls Richard, who rushed to the hospital with Ben and Gillian. When they arrived, they were updated by a doctor, who told them that Amy was being treated by the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) team and that her blood pressure was dangerously low.
"We didn’t know what to do with ourselves, everything was looking very serious," says Gillian, adding: "What I couldn’t believe is how quick the situation can change and how little time you have to respond." Thankfully, by 6pm on Sunday evening, after a change in the type of antibiotics she was being given, Amy started to show signs of improvement. “The doctor told us: ‘It’s still early days but I’m not as concerned as I was earlier this afternoon.’ That was a relief,” says Gillian.
Amy, whose memory of her time in hospital is very hazy, adds: “The doctors and nurses were telling me I had sepsis and that it was life-threatening, but I wasn’t taking it in. I didn’t become properly aware until later. I told my dad: 'I’ve got sepsis' and he said: 'I know!'."
After continued improvement, the dancer was able to return home on Wednesday 8 August. "When she did respond to treatment, the doctors couldn’t believe how quick she did recover," says Gillian.
Dress by RAISHMA
Amy spends birthday in hospital
A further set-back saw Amy spend her birthday on Thursday 10 August back in hospital following a rise in her temperature, but since then, she has been on the mend at home.
"I just got very, very unlucky," she says. "I’m also more prone to infections because my Crohn’s means I have a lower immune system," explains Amy, adding that checking her temperature regularly will be vital going forward. Amy and her family are delighted to have had the chance to tell Adam and Tom of their gratitude.
"It was really good to shake their hands and thank them personally; they’re a credit to the service," says Richard. "I thanked them for what they did for Amy and for the rest of the work they do because they don’t always get the recognition they deserve."
"It felt very emotional to meet them again," adds Gillian.
Recovery from sepsis
Since recovering from sepsis, Amy has been able to continue with her chemotherapy treatment. Her symptoms include tiredness, breathlessness and hair loss. "Unfortunately, I’m starting to shed a lot of hair now," says Amy, who wears a cold cap during infusions to help protect the hair follicles.
Amy’s experience of wearing a wig
Amy has been courageous in sharing her experience with grade three breast cancer and today, tells us that she is wearing a wig – made by Be Unique Wigs by Charlotte – for the first time, since noticing hair loss as a result of chemo. "Amy, you look stunning," her proud dad tells her.
Her Strictly friends have also been incredibly supportive of her journey. "’I've been on the phone to the Strictly team today… they said they’re getting me some fabulous wigs ready," says Amy, who is hoping to be able to appear on the upcoming series
in some way, whether it’s in video clips, appearances on spin-off show It Takes Two or joining the cast in the studio on Saturday nights. "The team are being guided by me – they’ve been utterly amazing," says Amy, adding: "We’ve got some dates in the diary, but it will depend on how I feel. We’re taking it a step at a time."
"The pros have been sending videos, flowers and presents. I speak to Dianne [Buswell, Amy’s fellow pro and close friend] every single day. This is impacting on them as well because we’re a team," she says. "I’m grateful they are including me because Strictly will help me get through the next few months, mentally. It’s just the tonic that I need."
HELLO! reunites Amy with medics who saved her life
Today marks a ray of happiness following the dark time, because, with the help of HELLO!, Amy – who is joined by her parents Richard and Gillian and husband Ben Jones – is reuniting with the two medics she credits with saving her life.
"We couldn’t be more grateful to them," says Amy of West Midlands Ambulance Service advanced paramedic Adam Aston and student paramedic Tom Scott, who attended the call-out to Amy and Ben’s home and insisted on taking the 33-year-old to hospital, where she was later treated for sepsis. "I was glad to be able to thank them for saving my life."
Amy wears tee and Jeans by Marc Cain
"We dread to think what would’ve happened if Adam and Tom hadn’t have encouraged us to go to hospital; it doesn’t bear thinking about," adds Amy’s dad Richard, who along with her mum Gillian, called an ambulance on the evening of Saturday 5 August after Amy began feeling very unwell.
Of the emotional moment, Adam tells HELLO!: "Both Tom and I are delighted to meet with Amy and her family again. It is wonderful to see Amy looking so much better than the first time we saw her. As ambulance staff, we don’t often get the opportunity to find out how our patients are doing after we have attended to them on a 999 call, so this made a nice change. The way Amy has been willing to share her cancer journey is inspirational and will undoubtedly help others in a similar position."
Strictly professional praises the NHS
Amy has chosen to share the latest development in her story in order to publicly thank the NHS. "We are so lucky to have every single individual and department in the NHS," says Amy, who has experienced their care more than most, having battled chronic gut condition Crohn’s Disease since she was a child. “From my breast care team to my oncology team, to the paramedics, to those who help me with my Crohn’s – everybody does an exceptional job, especially considering the pressure they’re under at the moment."
Amy wears tee and Jeans by Marc Cain and husband wears ARNE
Photographer: Trevor Leighton
Styling: Arabella Boyce
Makeup/hair: Summer Dyason
For more information on how to spot sepsis, visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/sepsis
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