My name is Bill Ridley and this is my story of how I contracted and survived severe sepsis.
In mid December 2010 I had a bad cold which turned into a chest infection, so I made one of my rare visits to my GP who checked me over and gave me some antibiotics, thinking in a few days I would start to feel better, but on Saturday 18th December my life changed forever.
I was feeling worse so my wife told me to stay in bed, as she would be at home unable to go to work or her works Christmas dinner after work as we had had snow in the night making it impossible to drive, which probably saved my life.
I was gradually getting worse during the day my wife told me later I was talking nonsense most of the day, by early evening she became very concerned and tried to call an out of hours doctor to no avail, saying to me she wanted to call an ambulance apparently I told her I was fine but my daughter insisted she called one, the operator asked her if my lips were blue? “Yes” she said, is his breathing rapid? “Yes” again, the operator said keep talking to him don’t let him sleep, within 10mins a rapid response paramedic arrived who checked me over and said “hospital for you” my blood oxygen was 76% so was given oxygen. Soon after the ambulance arrived to take me on the 10 minute journey to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, getting through 4 bottles of oxygen on the short journey.
I was taken into A&E and then straight to intensive care and put in an induced coma, my wife being told it would be for a few days, she left the hospital that evening not knowing how bad thing were to become, the following day she came to visit to find tubes and lines everywhere, I was now on full life support suffering from double pneumonia, severe sepsis and multiple organ failure, I was on a ventilator with 100% oxygen and dialysis machine, my blood so poisoned it kept blocking the filters on the dialysis machine and my blood pressure was constantly falling through the floor.
My wife, son and daughter-in-law were taken into a small room and told they had placed a DNR on me as I had a very slim chance of survival when asked how slim they were told a less than 10% chance of survival, fortunately I made it through the night and it was removed the next day when the head consultant told my wife there had been a “miracle” and I was well enough for a CT scan which confirmed everything.
I have a period of almost 8 weeks missing from my life which for me where full of the most frightening & bizarre nightmares I’ve ever experienced, at times believing I had died, In reality my wife and family were going through a far worse nightmare not knowing if I would survive and if I did what quality of life would I have, the most frightening time for them was when I had respiratory arrest causing 2 cardiac arrests when a mucus plug the size of a golf ball broke away from my lung and blocked my airway, I then contracted ARDS causing permanent damage to my lungs.
I spent 3 months in ICU and a further 2 weeks on a ward leaving hospital on 30th March 2011 with post ARDS pulmonary fibrosis and almost 4st lighter, incredibly with no major organ damage.
My father-in-law had died suddenly 3 days after I left ICU another devastating shock for all the family.
I found life back at home very difficult unable to do many things for myself as I had lost so much muscle tone, which lead to me becoming very depressed and withdrawn, wishing at times I hadn’t survived. I’m very lucky I have a niece who is a nurse in the ICU, she told the consultant how difficult I was finding things after my illness, he arranged a followup for both my wife and myself discussing our worries and concerns, he also arranged for us to see a psychologist which we had to wait 4 months just for an assessment, the real turning point for me was my second followup, when I was asked if I would speak to a long term ICU patient about my experience which I did on several occasions, unfortunately he became very ill again and died, making me realize how incredibly lucky I was to survive.
Even though I had suffered physically & psychologically I wanted to do something to help others that had been through a difficult time in ICU, with the help of my wife and niece we set up a local support group for ex-ICU patients & relatives in early 2012, meeting in a local pub as we had no money to hire a venue, we had about 8 people come to our first meeting which doubled within a few months, towards the end of the year I was put in touch with Peter Gibb CEO of the ICUsteps Charity and we were invited to become a local ICUsteps group, giving us the chance to become part of a national charity.
I was also given the opportunity to speak at hospital study days for HCA’s and a talk with my wife for the intensive care staff that treated me, explaining the difficulties faced by both patients and relatives.
2013 became the year things got better with the birth of our first grandchild in May an 8lb boy called Lucas and the September I became a trustee of the National ICUsteps and spoke at their first ever conference to 200 people, something I would have never done before my illness, in 2014 I took over the role of secretary and in April this year both my wife and myself spoke at the ACPRC conference in Cheltenham.
Although my illness has left me with permanent damage to lungs and have also been left with cognitive problems, nerve damage to my hands, feet and lower legs I still feel grateful to have survived and feel privileged to be given the chance to help others with the voluntary work I do with ICUsteps.