On Wednesday 7 December 2011 my husband Roy and I shared a dinner together after one of our busy days – he was busy preparing the Christmas service for our Unitarian Church in Tenterden where for the past four years he had been lay leader.
Shortly after eating Roy complained of stomach pain and two hours later began vomiting, which lasted for 6 hours. We thought it was a stomach bug so he went to bed after drinking lots of water. The next day he had a high temperature and I helped him to wash and to change the bedding. He slept most of the day and I suggested contacting the doctor but he didn’t want me to. By the following day he felt a little better and ate a small amount of food. The next day again he was not so well but still wouldn’t let me get the doctor. I really wish I had got help as later that night he became quite unwell again. By the Monday morning there was a huge deterioration but he had woken early to make me a cup of tea as I had stayed awake all night and had dropped off to sleep. But it was obvious we needed urgent help – his lips and skin were pale, he was freezing cold and we took his blood sugar (he was diabetic) which registered 12 – very high.
I phoned the doctor who sent an ambulance within 5 minutes. The paramedics tested his blood sugar again – by now it was 25. They took him into the ambulance and put him on a drip. He was taken to A & E and I followed in the car. A doctor diagnosed gall bladder problems but they had to wait for blood results and said he would need an operation. During this time Roy became very distressed as he needed the toilet urgently – common for him as a diabetic. It was very upsetting for him to have a bladder accident as he couldn’t use the bottle provided in time.
He was then taken into the resuscitation area where I talked to the doctor about his general health. I was watching the monitors but didn’t understand the results. An x-ray was taken and Roy began to get breathless. He asked for a drink but this wasn’t allowed as they were preparing him for surgery. Instead I swabbed his mouth with a sponge. Suddenly, he developed breathing difficulties and became jaundiced. He was given oxygen and they wanted to put a tube into his throat and they asked me to step outside. That was the last time I saw him alive as he suffered a cardiac arrest from which he died. Although I could see he was very sick and feared the worst, it still came as a devastating shock to hear the news I feared.
Our children and grandchildren were on their way, but he died before they arrived. The coroner’s report showed gall stones, necrosis of the gall bladder and biliary sepsis. Although 75 years of age and a diabetic, Roy was generally fit and looked after himself.
That day 12 December 2011 was 10 years to the day since we moved into our lovely new home in Ashford, Kent. A week before Roy had asked me how we might like to celebrate the occasion!
We had 3 children, 8 grandchildren and one newly arrived great grandchild. He was the only grandad in the family and was adored by all of them. He worked for the Unitarian church for most of his life and had many friends and contacts through Britain and abroad through the international work that he did.
Our lives have been turned upside down but we have supported one another continually. Throughout the year I have been wanting to ask questions but always felt that some information was missing. Now after reading about Sepsis I feel as if some pieces of the puzzle have been filled in.
I am still having counselling as the lack of knowledge has worried me so much. Having this new knowledge has made me feel empowered and hope that by sharing this story others may be helped. Roy was a lovely man, devoting himself to his family, as well as holding religious and spiritual beliefs. We all miss him so much. Until I read about Sepsis and read the stories of others, I really felt I didn’t do enough to help him. Maybe now that I know I could not have done more than I did, I can begin the healing process, which I believe is essential.
I still enjoy thinking about our wonderful life together, including normal ups and downs, since we first met in 1958. He was the love of my life and so cherished by all who knew him. I sincerely hope that the campaign to get sepsis more fully understood will succeed and prevent others from suffering as we all have.