On 8th June I made a very personal announcement explaining why I wasn’t writing articles for this Blog. In many ways I am a very private person and I wouldn’t have mentioned my illness at all apart from the fact that I was forced to withdraw from being part of Lawgiver this year, this was the third annual (unofficial) Judge Dredd Convention and I have been involved from year 1.
I was in hospital from 19/05/16 to 11/07/16. I was admitted due to complications of newly diagnosed Diabetes which culminated in a very serious operation.
I am making good recovery but I still tire easily and I will be attending multiple Outpatient Clinics. I also need a further operation.
My physical health is usually quite good. I do live with Mental Health issues and sometimes write about the subject; which is why I put Trigger Warnings in the heading to this article.
It was a minor ailment that took me to my GP’s Surgery. If I hadn’t gone that day the outcome could have been very different.
This is a very personal story and isn’t easy for me to write. But if it makes just one person think a little more about their health and have things checked out it will be worth it.
The week before I was admitted to Hospital I had what I thought was an Anxiety Crisis. I had been going through a protracted dispute with my Power Supplier and felt that their early responses treated me as though I was lying. I had gone through quite a lot of Anxiety over this issue and had a few Depressive Episodes caused by this.
The symptoms of what I thought to be Anxiety Crisis included shaking, fever, complete loss of appetite and panic. It was much worse than any Anxiety Attack I had ever had but the symptoms seemed to be connected to my issues at the time.
I didn’t eat anything from Wednesday 11th May till Sunday 15th May. I found it impossible to seek help until Sunday when I called the NHS adviceline on 111. I obtained an appointment at a local Mental Health Hospital and they agreed I was in Crisis. They calmed me down and I went to my GP on Monday. I was signed off work for two weeks to recover.
On the evening of Wednesday 18th May I had what appeared to be a simple toilet issue. It was painful so I decided to go to my GP’s Surgery the next day.
I saw the Nurse Practitioner, who I have seen a few times and he has been very helpful. He listened to my symptoms and said it sounded like a urinary infection. He did some tests there and then and discovered my Blood Sugar levels were dangerously high. He booked me a same-day appointment with the Diabetes Clinic at St James Hospital in Leeds.
The Diabetes Clinic admitted me to Hospital. The stress caused a severe Anxiety Attack. I was in a severe state of confusion for the next few days.
Initially I expected to be in Hospital for a few days. It was hoped that my Blood Sugar levels would reduce and I would be released to Outpatient care from the Diabetes Clinic.
My Blood Sugar levels however remained high and unstable. It soon became clear that I had multiple infections and my health deteriorated rapidly.
I now know that what seemed to be an Anxiety Crisis was in fact my immune system crashing, almost certainly caused by Diabetes.
As a result all the minor little bugs that were in my body doing nothing took hold and made me very ill indeed. Potentially untreated of course this can lead to death.
I’m not being alarmist. Because I developed such an intense swelling in my gentiles that the blood supply was strangled and Gangrene set in.
Gangrene on my penis. It was a terrifying diagnosis. My Urology Consultant was very clear on the dangers, of course I knew the seriousness of Gangrene. Emergency surgery was required, potentially I was facing a Penectomy. He also advised me that the next stage of the illness was death.
Refusing the surgery meant death in a matter of days. There is roughly a 48% fatality rate for Fournier’s Gangrene, the type I had, including those that receive treatment. I didn’t know those statistics at the time. Of course I was in Hospital already so the Gangrene was caught early, I knew my survival chances in Surgery were pretty high. What I would wake up to though was unknown.
Obviously I chose life.
I woke to find I had only lost some layers of skin. My penis was otherwise intact. Obviously this was a huge relief. I’m a Grandpa, my years of fathering children are behind me. Losing my penis however would have affected my life dramatically.
I was off the Morphine in under 24 hours and felt much better given the success of the surgery. I was told I may need skin grafts and that my Urethra was damaged and would require surgery. As a result I had a catheter inserted in my super pubis.
Further complications came about after the surgery. I still had very high Blood Sugars. Infections can cause this and the main infections that had been found were now under control.
I had tests on my Kidneys, Heart, Liver and Spleen. An infection was found on my heart but my organs were all healthy.
Basically a collection of microbes from the multiple infections I had suffered had gathered on the right valve of my Heart. Thankfully my Heart is very healthy, I have known this since I had a suspected heart attack sever years ago (at that time I weighed 21.5 stone… more on my weight later). My Heart is still in very good shape.
If the Heart is unhealthy this condition is very serious indeed and usually requires surgery. I only needed a four to six week course of Penicillin by 4 hourly intravenous drip (only…).
Two consultants from Leeds General Infirmary visited weekly treating this infection. One a Microbiologist, the c other a Cardiologist. There are only around 80 to 90 cases a year of Infective Endocarditis in the Leeds Hospitals catchment area (which is a huge area) so I was asked if my data could be used to further study the illness, I received no experimental treatment it was only a case of agreeing to my data being included in the study and I obviously agreed.
My body soon recovered it’s immune system and after just over four weeks I rejected the penicillin. I do still have the infection but my body is now fighting it and my Heart remains undamaged. However there are dangers regarding General Anaesthetic with this infection so I cannot have the following up operation on my Urethra until cleated by the Endocarditis Team.
I mentioned my Weight above. I was 21.5 Stone at my heaviest. This was caused by developing arthritis and giving in to it. I ceased being active but didn’t adjust my diet. I also comfort ate. When I thought I had a heart attack it turned out to be nothing serious and I was told my Heart and Lungs were perfectly healthy. My blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol were also fine. All despite the weight.
I didn’t take this for granted. 5 years ago my Daughter got married and I realised when I bought my suit how bad my weight was. Since then I changed my diet and challenged my Arthritis with increased activity. Before this recent illness I was 15st 8lb.
My weight is relevant. Due to the multiple infections my body ate 2.5 stone of my muscle. I still have some fat I wanted to lose but dressed I look healthily slim for my build. I’m not… the loss of muscle has left me weak and I tire very easily.
So I was discharged with a catheter and await the further surgery. I am not giving in to this, unlike how I dealt with my Arthritis. I am walking each day to build up my strength and endurance.
It will be a long road but I am now gaining weight so will soon start using weights to rebuild my upper body (the worst affected area through muscle loss). I used to regularly train with weights in my younger years so I know what to do and how to do it safely.
As I rebuild my muscles and my physical health I should lose much of the remaining fat I still have. So in a year I may be in much better shape.
Remember. I discovered how ill I was because I went to my GP’s Surgery for something many people, myself included, might put off for a day or so. In this case if I had done those multiple infections would have set in at home. It is very likely I wouldn’t have been well enough to obtain help. In short I would have died.
Acting on symptoms that seemed trivial and the prompt action of the Nurse Practitioner at my GP’s Surgery saved my life. As did the prompt action and good care I received in Hospital. I’ve always supported our NHS.
I am sad that I missed Lawgiver. I also missed a lecture at Royal Armouries about the Staffordshire Hoard and the chance to get a close look at the new Lightning aircraft the US Marines are developing alongside the RAF (my mate is in the RAF and on the project team and was in the UK for an Airshow).
However I am alive… on time I will heal fully.
Please, always think twice before ignoring symptoms that don’t seem normal.