M’sian Plus-Sized Model Narrates Experience With Sepsis & Besting Adversity In The Fashion Industry

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Who is Vernis?

Vernis, a plus-sized model based in Malaysia, has had a colourful journey in her career, which kicked off when she joined a pageant competition in 2017 and later won a subsidiary title of “Miss Grand Melaka Best Advocate 2018”.

Although Vernis was aware that there was no chance for her to win the competition, as it did not include a plus size category, she simply joined the competition with the goal to challenge herself.

Growing up, she faced constant bullying for her skin colour and body type, which led to obstacles in her general comprehension of self-love. By joining the pageant competition, she hoped to inspire others who have had similar experiences.

As the only plus size contestant in the competition, Vernis stood on stage to share her story and show that she is beautiful and confident in herself, challenging the stereotype surrounding fat people.

While she does believe that in recent years, the industry and society have become more accepting of plus size models, providing more opportunities for them to take up space and create a movement – giving a voice to individuals to share their experiences firsthand is perhaps one of the most essential steps to upkeep the initiative and humanise models beyond their physical traits.

A sepsis survivor

source: Adidas

However, on 2 February 2023, Vernis’ life changed while she was shooting for Adidas in Singapore. She fell extremely ill and experienced a severe bodily reaction to an untreated kidney infection, which resulted in sepsis, a life-threatening medical emergency.

Vernis’ experience with sepsis was harrowing. While shooting for the portrait, she began to shiver and felt a drop in temperature, but managed to complete the shoot before resting in her hotel room.

She woke up later with chills, which worsened over time, and her fingers turned greenish black while her nails turned blue due to a lack of oxygen. Vernis experienced a lot of confusion and later had a panic attack, where she heard voices and felt like she was going crazy.

She got into the hotel elevator and walked towards the hotel corridor, experiencing excessive hallucinations that made her feel as if she had to make a life or death decision to pick one of the doors.

Vernis eventually picked a door and started walking towards it, before abruptly changing her mind and walking towards the opposite direction. She injured herself by unknowingly running into a wall, which resulted in a head injury that caused some bleeding.

The hotel staff was thankfully able to locate Vernis through the CCTV and called for paramedics who rushed her to the hospital. There, Vernis was diagnosed with sepsis which came as a result of a kidney infection long overdue for treatment.

For those unaware, sepsis is a severe bodily reaction to an untreated infection that can be life-threatening. Formerly known as blood poisoning, it requires urgent medical attention. Time is of the essence when it comes to sepsis, and there are four key symptoms to watch out for, commonly referred to as the “TIME acronym.”

The “TIME acronym” stands for:

  • T for temperature: Individuals with sepsis may experience a fever or low body temperature. For example, Vernis experienced consistent shivering and cold body temperatures.
  • I for infection: People with sepsis may show signs and symptoms of an infection, such as excessive bleeding in Vernis’ case.
  • M for mental decline: Sepsis can cause confusion, sleepiness, difficulty waking up, and even hallucinations. Vernis experienced mental decline, including confusion and hallucinations.
  • E for extremely ill: Those with sepsis may feel extremely ill, experiencing severe pain, discomfort, or shortness of breath. She felt like they was on the brink of death, experiencing shortness of breath and a constant feeling of impending death.

Vernis was fortunate to have received medical attention in time to survive. However, she believes that more education and awareness about sepsis is necessary to help people identify the symptoms and receive prompt medical attention.

A mum-to-be

As of right now, Vernis continues to inspire Malaysian women with her resilience and contributions to the local modelling scene – with a baby on the way.

She actually learned she was pregnant prior to receiving the diagnosis of her kidney infection, and this led her to believe she was having a miscarriage when she first experienced the aforementioned vaginal bleeding linked to her illness.

“I really couldn’t do much because my body didn’t permit me to, I didn’t even have time to process my emotions whatsoever because I was trying to regulate my body temperature and I really couldn’t stop shivering. After a while, I started to experience shortness of breath,” she explained.

While it is fortunate that Vernis was able to obtain a diagnosis and come to an understanding with her condition in time, her story undoubtedly highlights the struggle that is all too commonly faced by women worldwide.

Today, we celebrate Vernis’ journey. Merging the world of motherhood, fashion and stigma-breaking, Vernis is a model to watch – and in our opinion, the epitome of beauty.

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