Life-threatening ordeal prompts family to highlight symptoms
A BRUSH with death has prompted a Kettering family to raise awareness of a little-known condition which kills more than 37,000 people a year in the UK.
The Nicols – retired teachers who live in The Gardens, Kettering – vowed to bring the killer infection, sepsis, into the public eye after Ian Nicol almost died from it.
Ian became unwell in January when his ankle began to swell. The condition – whose symptoms can be misdiagnosed – caused Ian to suffer multiple organ failure, loss of sight and speech and ultimately the brain and nerve inflammation meningoencephalomyelitis. He has spent most of this year in hospital.
But now much improved, Ian (63) told Extra Local how it all started: “I had had ankle replacement surgery in 2006 – which was fine until about a year ago. Then in early February this year I developed sepsis in my ankle, which spread throughout my body – my kidneys failed, my spleen was affected, my heart moved from where it normally is to the side somewhere and I was in a poor way. It affected my brain as well.”
Father-of-four Ian – who taught at Corby Business Academy before retiring four years ago – was laid so low by the illness his wife Monika said: “I was faced with a quadriplegic who couldn’t move anything except his eyeballs. I went into automatic pilot – what can we do and how can we deal with it.
“We are Christians and I got lots of people praying for him. He was 11 weeks in the stroke unit, Cranford, at Kettering General Hospital – because that was the best-equipped unit to deal with the condition.
“He was then transferred to the rehabilitation centre and, by May, he was walking again – he has been home since June 25th. His left hand doesn’t work too well and he walks with a stick, but he is getting there, thanks to lots of help from physios and staff at Kettering General and the rehab centre Beechwood in Wellingborough – they were absolutely brilliant.”
Monika – who taught at Windmill Primary School in Raunds – added: “He’s a walking miracle.”
Now the family is backing nationwide efforts to warn people about sepsis and to point out how to recognise, urgently, the signs of the life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. Monika said: “This disease kills more people than breast, bowel and prostate cancer put together each year, yet hardly anyone has heard of it.”
Those promoting the work of the UK Sepsis Trust are holding a ‘Pink Picnic’ on Saturday September 12 at Westminster, but Monika is putting herself into the local spotlight a week earlier – with an awareness-raising static bike ride on her front lawn!
The grandmother of nine said: “I am cycling six miles on Saturday September 5 on my daughter’s exercise bike outside our house – and I am not a cyclist so that is going to be quite a feat! We are doing tea and cakes and inviting all the neighbours, friends, family and people who have helped us to come along. It is also to raise funds for the UK Sepsis Trust – I have a page on the Justgiving.com site (search for Monika Nicol to donate).”
The UK Sepsis Trust (sepsistrust.org) says the condition can look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. The six indicators for seeking medical help swiftly are: slurred speech, extreme shivering or muscle pain, passing no urine (in a day), severe breathlessness, “I feel like I might die”, the skin appearing mottled or discoloured.
Monika added: “Ian had never been ill before – he had taken just one day off sick in 40 years of teaching. Sepsis is a medical emergency – there are only a couple of hours to save your life.”
Pictured above – HAPPY TOGETHER: Recovering from his ordeal, Ian Nicol is pictured by wife Monika with some of his family of one son, three daughters and nine grandchildren.