My name is Gary Overbury, a 44 year old male who is currently going through rehab following the diagnosis of Sepsis during April 2012. I have written this account of what happened to me as it seems the way I contracted my Sepsis was different and also to aid my emotional recovery. I also wanted to share my story as a positive in a way that I managed to pull through thanks to the excellent care I had received. The story starts on April 20th 2012.
“Daddy, will you do your shoe laces up?”
An innocuous sounding statement you think. But those words came back to bite me in the most extreme way. I had been bowling with my children when my lace had become undone. Not realising this I started to take my turn, tripped over but still managed to bowl the ball. The children thought it funny as I lay on the floor – my ego bruised but as time went on that wasn’t all that was brewing.
Saturday came and went and as the day progressed I started to feel feverish and generally out of sorts. My wife was suffering from a sore throat and just thought I had caught the bug. She was out with friends on the Saturday evening but I had to text her to ask her to come home as I was beginning to feel a lot of pain in my knee and just associated the pain with the antics of the previous day.
When she got home she found me sitting on the floor of the kitchen, moving at this point was difficult, and she called for an ambulance mainly because the children where in bed and there was no one available to look after the children. The paramedic arrived checked me over and decided it was best if I went to hospital to have the A&E department review my knee. No ambulances were available so he put me in the back of his car and took me to A&E himself.
On arrival on A&E I was checked in and seen by the triage nurse. An x-ray later it was decided I had torn ligaments in my knee so a splint was fitted and crutches given. The nurse commented to the doctor that my knee was giving up a lot of heat but the doctor put this down to the damage in the knee. Once I was patched up I was on my way back home.
I don’t have much recall of what happened from the Sunday onwards and my family have helped with some of the information below.
Let the fun begin.
On the Monday evening I am sitting on the sofa at home and struggling for breath. My wife is concerned that I have reacted to the combination of drugs I was taking to ease the pain in my leg. She decides to call the on-call GP service. When he visited and examined me he felt that I had to be taken to hospital again as my pulse rate was 190 and blood pressure 185/110 and coupled with the breathing issue I needed further treatment. He wasn’t sure what was wrong with me but thought it could be a pulmonary embolism.
I was taken back to the A&E department but quickly moved to the Emergency Assessment Unit for further treatment as my PAR (Patient at Risk) score, which is normally measured on a scale of 1 to 5, was being measured at 9/10. At this point I was moving in and out of consciousness. My pulse rate passed 200 BPM and my blood pressure hadn’t really changed. My body was starting to shut down for some reason and the EAU team did not know what to do next. Despite what was going on with my body in a moment of consciousness I asked how West Ham had got on against Leicester, much to the amusement of the nurses treating me.
The EAU consultant asked my wife and my mum to join in him in a small room. My wife, perhaps naively, thought it was nice of the consultant to invite her into a room where tea and biscuits were available. It was only when he started talking that she realised it wasn’t going to be a pleasant conversation. The consultant said to prepare for the worst as they did not think I would make Tuesday morning. I guess as a last throw of the dice they asked the on-call Intensive Care consultant to examine me and see if anything was possible. His suggestion was to put me into an induced coma to help regulate my body as it was probably the only chance of survival. My body was in such a state of shut down that they had to get an ultra-sound machine to find a vein so that they could administer the drug to place me into the coma.
Once I was in the coma many tubes and machines were plugged in and many nurses started to administer various combinations of drugs. My knee was swollen to a point that it needed to be aspirated. As I was too poorly to be moved the orthopaedic team carried out the procedure in the ICU room I was plugged into. Half a pint of pus later a container was sent to the lab for analysis to try and find the cause of my infection.
Two days later it was confirmed I had Sepsis with the Streptococcus virus being the culprit. As I had no open wound there was some head scratching as to how the infection had got into my blood stream. My son had impetigo, which turned out to be the variation with the Strep strain, and I had been carrying the infection for about a week. The mystery of how the infection entered the bloodstream was solved by a patella tendon transfer operation I had some 30 years previously with the clip in my knee opening up and the virus entering my system that way.
During my induced coma I suffered multiple organ failure with my liver and kidneys deciding to join the fun. I was placed on dialysis to clean my blood during this time as well, which also regulated my temperature as this was higher than the medical team wanted it to be. I also suffered two cardiac arrests during this period. I guess in for a penny…
Can’t complain about the drugs!
I was on a combination of IV drugs to fight the infection (Vancomycin/Tazocin being the main drugs).
Not content with just asking how West Ham got on my mind took me on a journey that on reflection was bizarre to say the least. My dreams started with me being auditioned for a follow up to the Sport Relief Take That spoof with me taking the place of James Cordon. The characters who joined me were Miranda Hart, Jack Whitehall, Mrs Brown from Mrs Browns boys, Sue Perkins, Andrew Lawrence, who I was convinced was one of my ICU nurses as well, and others such as Cleo Laine and Tommy Trinder!. Not content with me having an array of entertainment talent joining me in my coma I was also convinced that pirates were hiding in the linen cupboard that was opposite the ICU bed I was in.
To aid the delivery of drugs and other liquids a PICC line was put into my arm. Much to the amusement of the family I was convinced I had been sent to France to have this procedure carried out. In hindsight, and a gentle reminder from the family, this confusion was probably caused by the fact it was a French speaking nurse who installed the line!!
At the time of the second cardiac arrest I was more conscious and could feel myself slipping away. My recollection of what happened next was an ICU nurse jumping on me to start the CPR process. After this arrest I stabilised and was moved from ICU into the High Dependency Unit for further care. During a shift change for the staff one of the nurses asked if I remembered her, to which I replied I did as she had bony knees when she jumped on me!!
The ventilator was the last thing removed and once this was done my recovery to a more normal hospital stay started. The first real memory I have was one of the HDU nurses giving me some ice cream. It tasted so good and something so simple meant the road to recovery had started, well with me being awake for it!
My mind was still playing tricks though and to the dismay of the family I loudly stated that the man in the bed next to me was suffering from Rabies – much tutting from the man’s family who was with him at the time!
I was also convinced that everything I was drinking had fish in; in fact everything for a period of time was related to fish in some way even my mum’s perfume.
Off to the ward
At the end of May I was moved from HDU to a normal ward to begin my physiotherapy rehab. The smiling assassins, otherwise known as physiotherapists, encouraged me to walk with a zimmer frame and got me mobile again. My strength started to return and bits and pieces started to return to normal behaviour. Once more mobile I was weighed to find my new diet approach had delivered the results I was looking for. I had lost nearly 4 stone during my treatment. I was looking to lose weight but not in this way.
On June 13th I was discharged from hospital reflecting on an experience I will never want to repeat. I know people are quick to knock the NHS at times but if it wasn’t for the professionalism and dedication of the staff of EAU, ICU, HDU and the Lister Ward at Broomfield Hospital I would not be here today. For that I will be eternally grateful.
My rehab is still continuing as of September, mainly physiotherapy work and my knee is starting to bend more and muscle strength is coming back. I am on crutches and able to drive again so being mobile is certainly helping. I still have a way to go but it will take as long as it takes.
Having read a little more about Sepsis and the impact it has on families and the sheer numbers of people that are lost to this type of infection I know I am one of the lucky ones still to be here.