A grandfather who almost died from sepsis is speaking out to raise awareness for Sepsis Awareness Month.
Mark Wignall, from Kingsnorth, Ashford, missed his 60th birthday because he was in a coma after developing lung infection legionnaires’ disease, which developed into sepsis.
The condition arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs, and can lead to shock, multi-organ failure and death - especially if it is not caught early.
Mark’s wife Jeni was told on several occasions he might not survive and, almost a year on, he is still battling the after-effects.
He said: “It was the most ill I’ve ever felt, and that is one of the signs of sepsis – you feel like you are dying.
“I had heard of legionnaires’ disease, but not of sepsis, and I had no idea what was wrong with me.
“It has been an uphill battle and I’m still not back to where I was, but I’m so grateful to the hospital staff who saved my life.”
Initially the dad of two thought he was suffering from gastric flu but his condition worsened and, when he collapsed in the bathroom, Jeni dialled 999.
Paramedics feared he had suffered a stroke, as his speech was slurred and he could not lift his arms, and he was rushed to the William Harvey Hospital where staff diagnosed the potentially fatal condition. He had also developed pneumonia, and was put in an induced coma to give his body a chance to recover.
Mark said: “I remember the paramedics coming into the bathroom, and being in the ambulance and going to hospital but after that I don’t remember anything until they brought me round.
“It was a terrible ordeal for my family, and my wife had several 2am phone calls to say they were concerned I might not last the night.
“At one point my temperature was 42 and my blood tests were showing that my body was overwhelmed with the infection.
“It was touch and go and if it wasn’t for the fantastic staff at the hospital I simply wouldn’t be here.”
When Mark came round from the coma he could not speak and, after scans revealed no neurological reason, speech and language therapists diagnosed a problem with his tongue and worked with him to overcome it.
He had to relearn how to swallow as well as speak, and was only able to have a teaspoon of water every hour at first.
Mark spent three weeks in intensive care and another week on the ward before he was allowed home to his family.
He now joins the weekly post-intensive care support group run by critical care rehabilitation and follow-up nurses Zoe Mannering and Lucy Mummery and critical care specialist physiotherapist Sarah Gotke.
He said: “The group is fantastic. It is reassuring to see other people who have been critically ill who are recovering and we can encourage each other and share experiences.
“When I came home I didn’t even have the strength to unscrew a bottle top but now I can do most things, although I’m still not back at work full time and when I’m tired my speech gets more slurred.
“But the treatment I have had all the way through has been second to none, and I’m grateful to be able to live life again.
“We postponed my birthday to this year and it will be an even better celebration because of what we have been through.”
The symptoms of sepsis include slurred speech or confusion, extreme shivering or muscle pain, passing no urine all day, severe breathlessness, feeling like you’re going to die, and mottle or discoloured skin. Anyone with a confirmed or suspected infection who experiences any of these symptoms should seek urgent medical advice.
For more information visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sepsis/