Children are quick to find nicknames for their teachers — the cheekier the better. Kath Tregenna loves hers. It’s a good thing.

Kath is the Bionic Lady to her students from the International School of London. They love their bright smiley teacher.

Kath has returned to work with an extraordinary spirit despite losing all her four limbs.

Just like TV’s Bionic Woman — played by Lindsay Wagner and coincidentally also a teacher with superhuman powers — Kath’s courage and determination are awe inspiring.

Kath has been doing the things she loves for almost two years, just after her family was summoned to say goodbye to Kath in hospital.

Kath Tregenna lost all four limbs to sepsis. The 47-year-old teacher, who lives in Datchet, Berkshire, now has so-called Hero Arms, which have clever sensors that can detect the tiniest muscle signals and turn them into hand movements

Kath Tregenna was left with four missing limbs due to sepsis. This 47-year old teacher lives in Datchet Berkshire and has the Hero Arms. They have smart sensors that detect tiny muscles signals and translate them into hand movements.

She is able to do everything, from driving her to school to writing whiteboard instructions and creating fun maths activities.

The so-called Hero Arms have smart sensors that detect tiny muscle signals and convert them to hand movements. 

She’s also had to teach herself to walk again on prosthetic legs — and all while caring for her two children: Aaron, 12, and eight-year-old Emily.

Kath (47), lives with Alvin, her carpenter partner, and their three children in Datchet. “But I refuse look back. After being so close to losing everything I feel so grateful that I’m alive.

Kath’s life as a child was ended by sepsis, which tore her body apart. 

A life-threatening reaction to an infection — in Kath’s case pneumonia — sepsis occurs when the immune system overreacts and begins to damage the body’s tissues and organs.

Kath's old life was eviscerated over a single terrifying weekend in late November 2019, when sepsis tore through her body. A life-threatening reaction to an infection — in Kath's case pneumonia — sepsis occurs when the immune system overreacts and begins to damage the body's tissues and organs. (She is pictured back in the classroom)

Kath lost her life in a terrifying episode of sepsis that struck late November 2019. A life-threatening reaction to an infection — in Kath’s case pneumonia — sepsis occurs when the immune system overreacts and begins to damage the body’s tissues and organs. She is seen back in class.

It all began at school Friday afternoon. I began feeling unwell — queasy and terribly hot,’ recalls Kath. Kath: “I knew I was getting pneumonia.

“I decided to take a break and return home in the early hours. I left my papers behind and walked away, expecting to return on Monday morning fit.

‘I spent the weekend in bed — only dragging myself out with the kids to see the Christmas lights in Windsor.’

Kath wasn’t feeling any better by Sunday afternoon. By then, Kath felt so sick that she called 111. The call handler, mercifully, realized something was wrong, and ordered an ambulance, despite Kath’s protestations.

‘I owe her my life,’ says Kath. Kath: “I have never felt so sick, but I never thought that it could make me dangerously ill.

“They took me to the ambulance and I made a promise to my kids that I would come back for breakfast. My mobile phone rang the headteacher and I warned her that I could be late to school.

“I had no idea that I’d be returning for another two years.”

Kath’s health rapidly deteriorated. After arriving at Slough’s Wexham Park Hospital, Kath suffered from sepsis. This was triggered by pneumonia.

On Monday morning at 1.30am, officers arrived at Alvin’s home to take Alvin and their children with them to say goodbye. Kath’s father Keith (78), a Cornwall-retired law lecturer, was also called by hospital staff and asked him to come to Kath’s side.

Kath, who lost her mum Sylvia to cancer at the age of 13, says, “I cannot begin to imagine how it was for them.” “One minute, the kids were walking along Windsor’s Christmas lights and the next moment they were telling me Mummy would die. One minute they heard Mummy’s death and the next, Mummy was about to go.

“I was unrecognizable. My body had become bloated due to the drug and my skin was covered with wires. Emily was terrified and couldn’t be convinced to even kiss me.

“Alvin was able to hold it all together, but must have felt like he was in absolute hell.”

It was obvious that my feet and hands were dark. They were not responsive and could not be moved.

Kath was able to hang on by a thread through the night. The family was warned repeatedly over the following days to prepare for the worst. The children were assigned a counsellor to prepare them for the loss of their mother.

Kath shudders when Kath recalls that she told Alvin and Dad in clear terms that they were going to lose me. Alvin and Dad were told by the doctors that it would be impossible to save me.

Amazingly, this miracle happened just in time to celebrate Christmas. A drug that boosts the effectiveness of antibiotics was mentioned by one of the doctors.

Only a small number of people had used it. It was given to Kath because there was nothing to lose.

The sepsis improved slowly over the following days. Kath spent two weeks in an induced coma. Her family was finally able to hope that she would recover.

However, sepsis was causing terrible harm. Kath was shocked to discover the horrible truth when she regained consciousness early last January.

Her blood was not flowing correctly to her extremities, and Sepsis caused gangrene. The infection was spreading to her hands, feet, and most of her legs. Only an amputation would stop it from getting worse.

She says, “It was just too much.” “I could see my feet and hands were darkened. It was not sensational and they wouldn’t let me move.

“But, I didn’t know why. Two months ago, my last memory is of getting in the ambulance. Both my family and doctors needed to be able to recall what had occurred.

“At the beginning, I was shocked and numb. It was easy to make the decision once I realized that there wasn’t any other option. Other than that, I didn’t feel these horrible, black limbs anymore.

She continues, “I recall Alvin looking at my and saying to me: “Kath! You’ve survived. This is a tiny price to pay.

Kath is pictured with her children Emily and Aaron before sepsis changed her life. 'When I look at Aaron and Emily and remember how close they came to losing me, I feel overwhelmed by how lucky I am,' she says

Kath and her children Emily (and Aaron) before the tragedy that was sepsis. She said, “When you look at Aaron or Emily and see how close we came to losing you, it makes me feel overwhelmed by the amount of luck I have.”

“When I considered how close my kids were to losing me,” he said. “I, more than anyone, understand the pain of being a mother.

Kath received both of her hands amputated at the wrist just above the elbow on January 10, 2013.

She says that at first, they had to be bandaged and I could not see much. My biggest worry was about what my kids would think. After the surgery, they came to see me and I pulled my arms out from underneath the sheets so that they understood there wasn’t anything to be afraid of.

“I wanted to see the positives. I still remember telling my mom, “Mummy will get new arms.” These arms won’t exactly match my old, but they will still be wonderful.

‘Of course, at that stage I was winging it — I hadn’t even heard of Hero Arms.’

Kath lost both of her legs two weeks later. She had them amputated on January 24, 2020. Her relief was matched by doctors who were able to save her knees and gave her greater mobility.

Even though she was able to adapt to her new reality, the experience of adjusting to it was hard. She says, “I thought that I was prepared for this.” “But, it’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to wake up without legs.”

“I wouldn’t be able walk again without assistance. I was thrilled when my physio allowed me to move my bottom on the bed.

Kath wanted to go to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital and have her prosthetic legs and arms fitted. She was informed that she would have to wait until the pandemic struck.

She says, “It was hard.” ‘But at least it meant I could get home sooner — even though it would be in a wheelchair. My children wanted to see me again.

Kath was pushed through the front door by her occupational therapist in April. Alvin, her kids and her dad were all there to meet her.

“That was my first day of joy,” she said. “The children made quite a fuss about me. It was so wonderful to be able just to cuddle and kiss them at home. It’s the best feeling I can remember being alive.

“The reality dawned on me. Although I felt the same inside, I found myself physically different. Every task was challenging. I had no devices. My only way to eat was by placing a spoon in my stomach and carefully lifting it up into my mouth. Food was everywhere in those first weeks.

I couldn’t climb the stairs so my family had to place a hospital bed inside the living room. Aaron was very protective of me and would always fetch water for me or give me snacks. Emily enjoyed brushing my hair.

There was so much to re-learn, but in one area Kath discovered she still excelled — teaching. Kath loved homeschooling, even though many people resent it during the pandemic.

Kath, who has been teaching English for over 20 years, says that it was Kath’s old Kath returning home. She’s also been teaching in America, the UK and the Caribbean where she met Alvin. I’ve loved my job since childhood. I think I was born to be a teacher.

‘Sitting with Emily and Aaron — doing all the things I’d normally do in the classroom — was magic. It was a feeling of being needed and appreciated. “I felt needed and useful. It was the first chance I had to believe I could get back in the classroom.”

She was delighted when she received prosthetic legs in July and began learning how to walk again.

‘By the October time that I was permitted to take them home, I was excited but also very cautious walking on a level floor. Bumps are terrifying. It was finally possible for me to walk into the kitchen, pour my drink and enjoy it. It was incredible.

Kath received prosthetic arms. These were less satisfying, however. ‘They were like hooks — functional but ugly and heavy,’ she says. I felt ashamed to wear them.

Kath read about Open Bionics in the UK and their revolutionary Hero Arms. Hero Arms, made of tough nylon with’myoelectric sensor’ technology to detect electrical signals from muscle movement in existing arms.

These prosthetic arms are lighter than regular prosthetic arms, and they’re so intelligent that they can pick up eggs or hold wine glasses.

But the arms cost between £8,000 and £10,000 each. It’s a tribute to Kath’s popularity that friends and colleagues, as well as scores of parents past and present, raised £29,000 to help her.

Kath’s first Hero Arm — to fit her right arm — arrived just in time for Christmas last year. She received her second in January.

She says, “It was the most wonderful Christmas gift I received.” “I had promised my children that I would give them cool arms some day. They were there.

“I was forced to do a lot of practice. Basically, you have to imagine what you want to do — whether it’s picking up a knife and fork or opening a door. The bionic arm has three sensors, one on each side and the other on the exterior. They pick up my tiny movements and convert them into finger movement.

Her old school pupils — aged from eight to 11 — were desperate to see Kath’s bionic arms too. Kath made a visit to the school in June 18 months after her death.

She says that the children were also traumatized. “I wanted to give them a happy ending. The arms captured their attention.

“They sent me questions after which they offered their suggestions to make them better. A bright spark asked, “Can they shoot lasers?”

Kath was encouraged by her coworkers and their positive reactions. She felt confident to go back to work in September. Kath says she is taking things slowly, and working only a few hours per week because her body gets tired easily.

“I am still learning how to do things. I can write on a whiteboard — I am still right-handed — but jumping down to the children’s level is another matter.’

Beyond the classroom, she’s a living demonstration of many of life’s greatest lessons such as resilience and fortitude.

“I want to teach them how to enjoy life. “I certainly do,” she said.

“When I think of Emily and Aaron, I realize how close I was to being lost. I’m overwhelmed by the way I’m blessed.”

This Christmas, it will be even more special because of the joy. She said, “I can’t wait for the tree to be up.” ‘And this year — thanks to my bionic arms — I will be the one hanging the baubles and wrapping the presents.