It was the best Christmas Day ever.
Everyone was home, Gemma, our 24 year old daughter who is a nurse was off for the first time in 3 years. Our 22 year old daughter Sophie was excited as she was leaving to go travelling in Australia in January. Our youngest, Calum was not so excited as he had exams in January.
We exchanged gifts, had a lovely Christmas dinner and had our annual treasure hunt before heading off to Jim’s sisters for a few drinks with the rest of the family. If you had to chose your last day, that day would be the one!
Boxing Day was very quiet. Jim was quite shivery that morning and complaining of being cold, he went back to bed for an hour with some paracetamol. Myself and the girls watched chic flicks, Calum and his dad watched sports and action movies in the other room. Jim said he had a few aches and pains as if he was coming down with a cold. He took some more paracetamol ate a bit of soup at dinner time but didn’t mention any other symptoms. We headed of to bed as normal that night.
I woke at 4.30 am, Jim was in the bathroom, he said that he felt hot and he did have a temperature, he said he would go and get more paracetamol. How I wish that I had gone with him! I may have noticed something then, but I didn’t. Jim lay on the couch and when I next spoke to him at 9.30am the first thing I did was pick up the phone to call 111.
He had a high colour and appeared to have bluish lips. He had no rash but he said that he had a sore back and was out of breath. The NHS operator spoke with me and with Jim, he mentioned that he had cold hands, they decided to send an ambulance. Jim went upstairs himself to get dressed and answered the door to the paramedics himself. I can honestly say that I was not worried at this point, Jim was coherent and completely himself.
The paramedics could not get a blood pressure reading it was so low. His heart was fine.
Jim wanted to go to the toilet before we left for the hospital, he tried but he said he couldn’t go. So many symptoms that I now know of, but I didn’t know then!!!
I still didn’t realise how sick he was! In the ambulance he complained of a sore back. The paramedics gave him oxygen but his colour didn’t improve!
We arrived at the hospital and I went to check him in while the paramedics took him to resus. My daughter arrived and we were taken to a family room. It’s a bit of a blur at this point but there were many questions and many doctors. By 11.30am they told us to call in the rest of the family that he was very, very sick and his family should be there. That was just two hours after the 111 phone call.
I could not get my head round this. Jim is fit, healthy, looks after himself and is a hard working family man.
They sent him for scans, did blood tests and asked countless questions but they didn’t know what it was. His kidneys weren’t working and he was on dialysis and his liver wasn’t working but there was nothing they could do to aid this. The scans came back clear, so there was no blockage in his main artery. I was relieved at this point. We were left with a bacterial infection which surely could be treated with antibiotics??
I was allowed to see Jim briefly after his scan. He had an oxygen mask on and he was covered in a rash. The consultant spoke with us soon after and explained that Jim would need to be put on a ventilator as soon as possible and that it was possible that he wouldn’t survive the procedure! We all had about 10 seconds with him before they put him under. It was simply awful and utterly surreal. It was now 2.30pm, five hours since I made the phone call, five hours to change our lives forever.
Jim never came off the ventilator in spite of staff working tirelessly through the night and multiple drug combinations. He never spoke to his children or me again. He died 24 hours later on the 28th of Dec 2016 from multiple organ failure brought on by pneumococcal sepsis, he was 51 years old. He was one person but he was a different person to us all. He was a son, a father, a brother, a brother in law, an uncle, a friend and a husband. He touched many, many lives and he is missed by all.
NHS Scotland were fantastic and it was obvious that the medical team were all visibly shaken by the aggression of Jim’s illness.
I knew nothing of sepsis then but I do now. I am a First Aid trainer and we do not teach about sepsis and its symptoms, I will include it in my future training but it is something that First Aid providers should also look at on a national level. If St Andrew’s, St Johns, Qualsafe etc added sepsis to their training programme sepsis would become a household word. Ordinary people, not just medical professionals would be aware of sepsis and it’s symptoms.
Jim showed very few symptoms of sepsis until it was too late but if I had been more aware then maybe alarm bells would have gone off sooner!
It was the best Christmas Day ever.