I was sitting in a restaurant in Vancouver in October 2017 when I received a phone call from my sister-in-law. “Can you get an earlier flight? Joy’s going into hospital and she’s quite poorly.”
For the last two days we had been chatting on Face Time and I knew she had a touch of ‘flu – but that often happened when I had to go away on business.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
I went back to the studio where I was working, jumped online and managed to book the red eye for that night.
Another call later that afternoon… “Did you get the flight? It looks really serious.” I assured them I had and so that night I headed back home, not knowing what was awaiting me… little knowing that my life was about to change forever.
Joy and I had been together for 19 years and married for 13 of them. We had 2 kids (aged 7 and 10 at the time) and as we shared a business and a hobby, spent pretty much 24/7 together. She was tall, beautiful, clever and very funny. I really had won the lottery with her.
When I landed I expected to go and get a coach from Heathrow to Gatwick (close to where I live) but Joy’s eldest brother and her mum were there waiting for me. It was when they got me back to the car that they told me… “We’ve lost her.”
I later found out that they had tried all kinds of tests but nothing was showing up, so she had been put under so they could open her up-and find out what was happening. It was during this that she suffered multiple organ failure and never regained consciousness. The whole unit was in shock for days apparently and it wasn’t until the Post Mortem that Sepsis was confirmed.
Sepsis. I had heard of it but knew nothing about it. Now, of course, I know so much better and try to spread awareness at every opportunity. One of the ways I do this is through my Doodleaday Diary. For about 18 months before Joy died I had been keeping a daily cartoon diary that I posted online, documenting all the funny, quirky things in our life. Once she died, this became something more – a way for me to share my feelings. Feelings about grief, childcare, the day to day highs and lows of being an unexpected widower. The doodles got noticed by the press and an article was published in a national newspaper and that’s when it all went a bit nuts! Rocketing Twitter and Instagram followings, several radio and podcast recordings and an appearance on BBC’s The One Show have raised my profile to an international level. The advantage of this is that it gives me a ‘shop window’ to regularly post the info graphic about the Signs of Sepsis. It is a huge comfort to know (thanks to the messages I have received) that as a direct result of my posts we have saved at least a dozen lives in the past 15 months and maybe even more. This is Joy’s legacy. It makes her death less pointless, knowing that as a direct result of losing her we have saved others from the pain we have had to endure.
You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram by searching for @GaryScribbler