At this time, on this Thursday a year ago I know exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was watching a team of highly skilled doctors, anaesthetists, nurses and a helicopter retrieval team work tirelessly to save my husband who was critically ill and in a medical coma. 24 hours earlier life had been completely normal and we had eaten out with friends and gone about our daily lives with no clue of the massive curve ball we were about to be thrown.
Roy or Orkney Beef as he’s known on this blog has an autoimmune disease which means his body doesn’t recognise his liver. His immune system works too hard to try and reject his liver which it sees as foreign and tries to boot it out (give or take a few accurate medical terms.) As a result his immune system is suppressed and this stops him poisoning himself from the inside, turning yellow and generally feeling very unwell. The flip side is he’s vulnerable to infection and doesn’t have a strong enough immune system to fight it. This condition which he’s had for a few years is very rare as is what happened to him a year ago. (He really should play the lottery with all his against the odds experiences)
On the Wednesday evening he went to bed saying his shoulder was really sore. Neither of us thought much of it. He’d been working out in the gym a lot and training for a half marathon so doing a lot of running. We both thought he’d probably pulled a muscle or something and Orkney Beef is nothing if not stoic in the face of adversity so he generally needs to be carrying his head under his arm before he would admit he felt unwell. By the next morning though it was evident that he was very unwell and it was more than a pulled muscle. I had to help him dress and into the car and as I drove him to the doctors in daylight I could see his colour was grey. I will never forget that moment and wondering if he might actually die in the car. I got him to the doctors who knew immediately what was wrong and called an ambulance straight away. It was this quick thinking that was part of a chain of events that served to save my husbands life and for that we will always be grateful. Orkney Beef had toxic shock syndrome following a soft tissue infection in his shoulder caused by Strep A. Something which I knew very little about and am now quite the expert. His BP was 80/40 which is dangerously low for a man of his build and we were yet to discover that he was already in kidney failure.
He was taken to our local hospital at about 10.00am where the day passed in a whirl and I watched my husband deteriorate seemingly by the minute. By 3.00pm that day I was informed that he was now critically ill. He needed to be moved to an intensive care unit in mainland Scotland but was too ill to move so was put into a medical coma while doctors tried to stabilize him.
It was made crystal clear to me at the time that things couldn’t be more serious for him. He had an underlying condition and septic shock. I was told in such cases that one add one doesn’t make two, instead it makes about five or six. My husband was in big trouble and ‘all the wheels had fallen off’
I had been texting friends all day asking many of them to pray, and yet each text I sent brought more news of his unravelling. It was a desperate time and only set to get worse. People arrived at the hospital and all we could do was endure an agonising wait as people worked so hard to try and save him. Eventually a helicopter arrived with a team who were there to collect Roy and hopefully transport him to intensive care if he even survived the journey. After what felt like hours while they worked tirelessly to move him and stabilize him, Roy was eventually able to be wheeled out of the hospital to the awaiting helicopter. There is no room for passengers as the helicopter only has space for the crew, patient and his life saving equipment. I was allowed to kiss him goodbye and could only pray that he would stay alive until I could get down by boat or plane the next morning.
The planes were fully booked so a friend offered to get the boat with me early the next day and drive me the two and a half hours to Inverness intensive care unit. Roy had made it through the night but his life was hanging very much in the balance. He was now in multiple organ failure and he had the beginnings of pneumonia. The expectation was that he was not going to survive. The picture attached is posted with Roy’s permission; as you can see he had the full range of life saving equipment and we remain continually grateful for the NHS which enabled this.
Roy remained in a coma for the next week and many people came to visit and nearly all prayed. We belong to a local church and had a huge network of people who prayed. There were also people who don’t normally profess a belief who prayed and numbers of people talking to God about Roy was in the 1000’s. Whether he lived or died I felt tremendously strengthened by the love and support of friends old and new as well as the superb care both Roy and I received by all the staff at Raigmore Intensive care.
Miraculously and against all the odds, Roy began to recover. He suffered no limb loss or real long term damage and after two and a half weeks was allowed to return home to Orkney to slowly regain his strength. His recovery was nothing short of incredible and we have God to thank as well as expertly trained staff and Roy’s own determination. Life after a coma isn’t pleasant initially but Roy refused to give up.
We cannot even begin to express our gratitude to each and every person who was involved in Roy’s care. His treatment was exceptional and we thank each and every one of you for all you did to save his life. GPs, ambulance crew, Balfour hospital staff, the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service, all the staff at Raigmore ICU and other wards he stayed on. Our gratitude remains forever.