Martin's Story

On 22nd May 2017 Martin and his daughter were at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena when their lives were changed forever. As the closest survivors of the bomb attack, Martin was left with a T10 complete spinal cord injury, while his daughter suffered a catastrophic brain injury.

47-year-old Martin has since had sepsis seven times, following a urinary tract infection (UTI), owing to being a catheter user. He’s sharing his story to help make others aware of the increased risk of infection among people with spinal cord injuries.

As the Ariana Grande concert was on a school night during mock exam season, Martin and his daughter Eve had agreed to leave during the encore to avoid traffic and get home at a reasonable time. This meant they were about six metres away from where Salman Abedi detonated his suicide bomb at 10:31pm; making them the closest survivors of the attack. Martin said: “Luckily, we both survived, albeit we both got catastrophic injuries. I suffered a T10 complete spinal cord injury, my spinal cord was totally severed by one of the bolts. One of the bolts suddenly hit Eve in the temple and went straight through, she was left with a very bad head injury, which we believe she’s the only person to survive that injury in the world. So we’re both very lucky to be even here.”

Martin was hospitalised for about six months following their harrowing ordeal, and was still on the Spinal Unit just a week out from going home when he developed sepsis in August 2017. Martin said:

“I just thought I had a cold, I didn’t feel well.”

“You know that that feeling you get when you’ve got a cold where you’ve got kind of achy skin? It just felt like that.”

He took a couple of paracetamol and carried on as normal. But after a couple of days he woke up one night, having had a seizure he describes as being akin to an epileptic fit. He grabbed the emergency toggle in his room. Although efforts were made to take his temperature, the unit’s thermometer was broken – and it wasn’t until his arrival to the emergency department at hospital that Martin learned he had an extremely high temperature: a sign of sepsis. He was taken to the High Dependency Unit and treated with antibiotics, surviving a second brush with death, with the infection originating from a UTI – one of the most common causes of sepsis. Martin said:

“For people with spinal cord injuries, like myself, urinary tract infections are an everyday occurrence.”

“Because we’re using medical devices and putting them into our bodies, there’s a risk of infection.”

Martin developed urosepsis again in December 2017. He said: “That was a real eye opener because that was the first time that I’ve gone into hospital as a paraplegic and the hospital didn’t know how to look after me with a spinal cord injury.” He has since been working as an advocate to improve the hospital experience for people with spinal cord injuries through his work with the Spinal Injuries Association.

Miraculously, Martin has survived sepsis a further five times since – and is now a lot more alert to the warning signs. He said: “The normal symptoms that I used to get were feeling like death. The high temperature, sweating like I’d jumped in a swimming pool; my t-shirt would be wet through, you could wring it out. I’d also normally be vomiting.”

But although he has learned to quickly respond if he starts showing signs of an infection, Martin still struggles with aftereffects of sepsis. Having already been diagnosed with depression in 2014, Martin struggles with other commonly reported symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog. Martin said: “For me personally, I come out of hospital and I literally cannot do anything. My wife has to do most things for me. I’ll probably spend a week, ten days in bed after coming out of hospital. When you’re catheterised, you must evacuate your bowels, so I have to get out of bed to do that. And it’s tough, sometimes I’ll be crying because it’s just hard to get out of bed.”

“Sometimes I look up to the sky and I’ll go, ‘What else do you want to throw at my door?’, and I’m not even religious.”

Martin has recently had a conversation with one of our Support Nurses, Oliver, in an effort to learn more about why he is so prone to reinfection and the struggles he has faced with his recovery. His big takeaway has been to be kinder to himself, and to give his body the time it needs to recover – and not to worry so much about needing to let people down if he needs to rest.

In terms of his motivations for sharing his story, Martin said: “I didn’t really know what sepsis was and what it did, and after this seventh time I felt that I really should use my profile to raise the awareness and perception of sepsis and what it does to your body in the hope that we reduce that.”

In terms of a key takeaway for others, Martin said:

“Sepsis doesn’t care who you are, what you do, how rich you are, what job you do.”

“To me it almost kind of feels like a hidden killer because the symptoms can actually just look like a common cold or flu. Especially in children, if you don’t get emergency help straight away it can be serious. You can die from it.”

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