‘But Sepsis Kills You’
On the Fourteenth of March 2019, in the early hours of the morning, my darling Dad passed away. He was just 61. And it has turned my whole world completely and utterly upside down. It’s been seven weeks now and it still doesn’t feel real. This is an incredibly personal post to share but it feels almost cathartic to write all the details down. And I also hope that it might just help spread a little awareness too.
Rewind to a few days before and I arrived at my Dad’s with Hugo in tow to be informed by his carer that Dad had been throwing up and had a suspected sickness bug. This continued for a few days. I made sure to go and check on him daily and to call him regularly to check on him and remind him to keep a close eye on his blood sugar levels as he was diabetic.
By day four I insisted Dad asked his GP to come out to see him, which she did. His Doctor said it was just a vomiting and diarrhoea bug and prescribed some anti sickness medication to help ease the nausea. The next day I convinced Dad to eat something and made him some scrambled eggs which he only managed half of. He kept them down so I figured he was probably over the worst of the virus now and he would hopefully improve.
The next day Dad called me at work mid morning and told me he was struggling to catch his breath. I told him to stay put and called him an ambulance before jumping straight in my car and driving to his. The paramedics arrived and did their usual checks while I reeled off Dad’s medical history to them. I knew it better than even he did. I expressed my concerns to them but they didn’t seem overly worried but agreed they would take him in for some extra checks. I got out his holdall and chucked in his toiletries, medication and some fresh clothes.
I then returned to work and called the hospital as soon as I got home with the children at about 4.15pm. The A&E Doctor I spoke to told me they thought Dad had Sepsis and stressed I needed to understand the seriousness of the matter. I obviously knew Sepsis wasn’t good news but I didn’t know all that much about it. I hung up the phone and sobbed. I called my sister who came straight over and drove us both to the hospital.
When we arrived Dad was hooked up to a bag of fluids and was sat up eating some soup. His skin already looked brighter than when I had seen him a few hours before. We spoke to a different Doctor who seemed much less worried than the one I spoke to on the phone. He told us that they were taking all the precautions of Sepsis but they wouldn’t know for sure if that’s what it was until they had blood tests back. He said that it was a good sign that Dad’s blood sugars were stable and he didn’t have a temperature.
We sat with Dad for a while, relaying to him what the Doctor has told us. As soon as I mentioned the word Sepsis, my Dad looked terrified and muttered ‘but Sepsis kills you‘. I reassured him and told him he’d be okay, that he was in the best place and he needed to rest. I kissed him on the cheek and told him I would be straight back up the next day. He was nodding off to sleep as we pulled the curtain round him.
As my Sister and I walked back to the car we both said how we felt that perhaps it wasn’t as bad as we’d originally feared and that he’d hopefully bounce back like he always did.
I was feeling pretty drained so headed up to bed for an early night. But I woke with a start thinking Josh’s alarm was going off, when in fact it was my phone ringing on my bedside table. It was 1.45am.
No Caller ID
I answered sleepily and a lovely male Doctor quickly and gently explained that he had been called to my Dad’s bedside half an hour before because he had suddenly deteriorated. I knew what was coming but I willed him not to say the words.
‘By the time I got to him, his heart had already stopped beating. We did everything we could. I’m sorry’
And just like that, it was like my world stopped spinning.
After I hung up the phone I ran to the toilet because I thought I was going to throw up. I was in total shock. I returned to bed and Josh held me while we both just sobbed for hours until the sun came up. I tried to call my sister but she was sleeping. It felt like I was trapped in some horrific nightmare and nothing made sense.
The days that followed are a bit of a blur. I felt numb and was on autopilot. Josh made lots of phone calls, we collected my Dad’s wheelchair and personal belongings from the hospital and I cried a lot of tears. Telling Bella her Grandpa had died was honestly the most heartbreaking thing I have ever had to do.
We were informed that the coroner wanted to do a post mortum as Dad’s death was sudden and unexpected. We had to wait over a week for this to be done which was horrible. And when my phone rang again ‘No Caller ID’ with the results, my heart sank once more.
They confirmed my Dad died from Septic Shock. Which had been caused by severe ulcerative gastroenteritis with peritonitis.
I have spent a lot of time researching Sepsis over the past few weeks and I naively didn’t properly know the signs. I will always carry guilt with me and wish I had got my Dad to the hospital sooner. But I took reassurance from the Doctor that came out to visit Dad at home who clearly never suspected Sepsis either.
I was shocked to read that every 3.5 seconds, someone in the world dies of sepsis. In the UK alone, 52,000 people lose their lives to sepsis every year. This is more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined. Globally, sepsis claims 6 million lives a year. Yet with early diagnosis it is easily treatable. Please have a look on the Sepsis Trust website and get yourself clued up on which symptoms to look out for.
It could save somebodies life.