The Sepsis Trust UK says that ‘feeling like you’re going to die’ could be a sign, among others, that you may have sepsis. Little did I know that on the evening of the 8th of April 2013 that not only would I feel like I was going to die but that a medical team in the intensive care unit of Kettering General Hospital would be doing everything in their power to save me from dying.
I have always tried to keep myself fit and health so something like a sore throat that I experienced during the first week in April 2013 was, as I have always said, ‘nothing to write home about’, I was still working and didn’t anticipate any time off work with this bad throat. However, on the evening of 8th April 2013 my condition changed. My wife Margaret, who is a nurse, suggested we contact the doctor. I remember calling the doctor and explaining my symptoms and the doctor suggesting that I take some paracetemol go to bed and come to the surgery in the morning. As we had no paracetemol in the house my wife went out to fetch some. When she returned my condition had become worse and she wasted no time in dialling 999 for an ambulance.
No sooner was I taken into Accident and Emergency than my condition deteriorated rapidly. I was rushed into Intensive Care where the medical team by this time had diagnosed sepsis. My condition kept deteriorating and very soon I was in septic shock with multiple organ failure and on a life support machine. At this point, the hospital called the police to contact our two boys Alan and Liam to inform them of my condition and to get them to the hospital as soon as possible, we now know that this was intended for them to have the opportunity to say goodbye to me.
The Medical team by this time had put me into a medically induced coma in order to work on me. In the early hours of the 9th of April my wife and one of my sons were taken into a side room and told by the consultant that he had to prepare them for the worst because I had a minimal chance of survival. My son asked the consultant if he could be more specific, like what’s the percentage chance. The consultant said he couldn’t. We now know, from discussing this with some of the medical team that no one expected me to live. My wife thanked the consultant for this information but said that she was sorry to disagree with him because she was a Christian and said that there were many people praying for me. Over the next 3 weeks that I was in a coma and although at times my condition meant that I was close to death several times, my condition did, against all odds, improve.
When I was brought round it was like I had opened the shutters in a room and my life was suddenly filled with sights and sounds. I’m not sure who I saw first or who said something to me first because I very quickly began to notice the state of my body and that’s where my attention was. I first noticed that I could not lift my hands off the mattress on the bed. I looked to see that my hands were about twice the size of normal and my fingers were black. I then noticed my left foot that was sticking out of the sheet, it too was black and I could not feel it, neither could I feel my right foot. At that point I felt something like a panic setting in and I went to call out but found that I could not speak.
Over the next few minutes and hours it was explained to me what had happened. I was still on the life support machine and would remain on it for a further 2 weeks and it was because of the tracheotomy that I could not speak. Those 2 weeks were terrible, because of the ventilator I found breathing extremely difficult and on top of that I was unable to drink anything and constantly had a thirst. When I was taken off the life support machine my condition was explained to me more fully. It was at this point that I was told my left foot would have to be amputated and that there was a possibility that my right foot would also have to be amputated. I was also told that eventually my fingertips would self amputate. In my quiet moments at that stage I was in deep despair. How could this have happened to me? I was fit and healthy one day and the next I was starting 5 weeks on life support with little or no hope of living and now facing the prospect of losing my 2 legs and the tops of my fingers. How would I get on with life after this? Would I walk again? Would I be able to work again? Would I ever play my drums again? How did this happen to me?
Over the next few weeks I had both my legs amputated below the knee and what followed was intense aftercare and physiotherapy to help me walk again. I am by nature a positive forward-looking person but I had to draw on all my strength to overcome the intense physical and psychological pain I had to deal with. In addition to trying to come to terms with what had happened to me it soon became apparent that if I needed rehabilitation that my wife and I would have to fight for it and in terms of having psychological help to help me come to terms with what had happened to me that had to be found privately. We were also soon to realise that there would be no support to make any alterations to our home to accommodate a wheelchair, we were totally on our own with no financial help. As a result we had to sell our home which added yet another degree of difficulty to our situation.
Anyway I did, after some time, receive rehabilitation and I have experienced good care throughout my journey but along some of the way we had to overcome huge obstacles. If it wasn’t for my wife and family, friends from church and friends past and present that have been so encouraging it would have been easy to give up, after all what happened to me was not my fault.
After 10 months my physical and psychological recovery is still not complete, I am still coming to terms with what has happened to me and there are moments when right out of the blue I become very emotional and my psychological pain almost debilitates me, its just like a grieving process I am going through. I am convinced that without the psychological help I have received and my faith I would be struggling to face each day.
In terms of the future my wife and I are in a new home and I am, despite all I have suffered and am still suffering, optimistic and full of hope. I now have two prosthetic legs and can walk unaided and I have had to have 6 of the tops of my fingers surgically amputated.
Life has changed, but life goes on.