A former banker has spoken of becoming a quadruple amputee at the age of 38 after being struck down with sepsis, or blood poisoning, following a slow diagnosis at hospital.
Tom Ray is calling for mandatory sepsis checks for everyone going into A&E. Here he tells Sky News how he has head to relearn how to feed himself.
I was a fit, strong, healthy guy, a never-had-a-day-off-in-my-life kind of fella.
But one day, I went to the dentist and the dentist nicked my gum with one of those scalpel instruments they use.
I also had a cold at the time, and a day or two later I started to feel very, very ill. Very hot, but also very cold.
I couldn’t stop being sick and just felt thoroughly wrong. I put myself to bed thinking it was man flu or something but it got worse and worse from there. My symptoms continued to worsen until I lost consciousness and was admitted to A&E.
From that moment, I was in hospital for more than 200 days.
From my point of view, I woke up five months later and the doctors had amputated my hands, amputated my feet and also my face.
They had amputated from my eyes downwards, so everything was gone. It was just red raw, and I couldn’t remember anything about my past life.
I had to be re-introduced to my wife who was next to my bed.
While I was in a coma, she had given birth, so she introduced me to my son and reminded me that we also had a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter at home.
It really was like dying and coming back to life.
I couldn’t really show my face in public, so as a husband and father going back home in that state, I was questioning whether I was viable really.
I also questioned whether I should choose to carry on and to inflict that on a small family, knowing that you’re going to essentially be a third child in the house. I had to think twice about whether that was right for me to do.
I was quite selfish, really, because I was really in love with Nic, my wife, and we had such a fantastic relationship. We had only been together three or four years, and we were still in that first phase of romance – I really wanted to hold on to that if I could.
I had to relearn everything from feeding myself, to driving… and then of course all the money ran out.
Sepsis bankrupted us and I had to go out and find a job.
There are no benefits that sustain you through something like this, so I went out and got the first job I could – which was working in a call centre.
Funnily enough, they welcomed me in and I thought that job would be the first rung on the ladder.
But I’m still in the same company now, and what I actually joined when I took the job was a “family”. They looked after me and encouraged me. It kind of saved me, that camaraderie and routine.
Our system of bringing people into A&E and making them them wait four, six, eight hours while they are triaged and held in queues just doesn’t work for sepsis.
Sepsis will kill you quickly within a matter of hours. I was held for 10 hours while they tried to work out what was wrong with me.
In 10 hours, it will literally just destroy you and go through your body, shut down your organs, shut down the blood supply to your extremities – you’ll die a slow death within about 12 hours.
What we need is a system where sepsis patients are identified immediately as soon as they are received at hospital, and blood tests are taken and the results are sent back fast.
Without this, the statistics will just grow and grow and grow – we are seeing vast numbers of sepsis deaths of around 50,000 per year.