THREE DAYS IN THE DARK – a Sepsis survivor
I am writing this piece as it maybe of use of to anyone who has a relative who may go through a similar experience.
I’m lucky, very lucky.
Though I have seldom been lucky in my life. I have always worked hard to achieve my goals in life. Though when the time came for Lady Luck to call on me she arrived at exactly the right moment.
The year was 2003.
I lived in a leafy area of London, Wimbledon.
I had been ill for several weeks. I kept getting antibiotics for what was considered to be a persistent chest infection.
I had an idea for a screenplay set in Hull, so I traveled north to stay with my mother in the North West with plans to go to Hull for research.
During my stay at my mother’s house the chest infection persisted. One night I woke up coughing blood (if that ever happened again, I’d go straight to A and E).
The next day I went to the doctor. She gave antibiotics, sent me for an X-ray. I was then diagnosed with emphysema. I never really believed in that diagnosis as I had never worked in a mine, smoked or worked in an environment which had put me at risk of that disease.
I struggled on but I was getting worse. I could get about but there was a lack of energy. One symptom that emerged was at a family lunch to celebrate my sister’s birthday. I found it hard to swallow my food. I persisted. Said nothing.
Soon after that I went to bed.
Hospital – Blackpool Victoria
I woke up staring at the lights on the ceiling. I was in a hospital.
It was the middle of the night. I clearly remember that I was happy to find myself in that place, I thought, “thank God, someone will sort me out now.’
The following morning the nurses on the ward were really happy to see that I was conscious.
”Mr. Taylor, you’re back with us!”
I assumed I had only been there for one night, I thought why all the fuss? I had been there for three days.
One thing I do clearly remember to this day is the sound of my sister, Margaret speaking to me, she was whispering in my ear. I could not answer clearly, only mumble.
On the third day in hospital I had started to open my eyes but I was not communicating. (I know this from an entry in my mother’s diary (which I only read in 2017).
During my two week stay in hospital, I don’t remember anyone telling me that I had Sepsis. It wasn’t something I would have even thought about then as I was unaware of Sepsis or the symptoms.
I remember clearly that for a few days after I came round I was a bit distant, my memory had been affected. I could not remember the names of people who visited me. I knew family members but extended family members were just figures.
One of the ‘figures’ remarked, “he doesn’t know who we are.” He was right but I didn’t admit it.
I asked for an A4 writing pad
I instigated my own cure to kick start my memory/brain back into gear.
I started to create lists. I wrote down titles of films I liked, BBC shows, Radio 4, Radio DJs, TV presenters, TV programmes, titles of books, plays I had seen or read, authors I had read: DH Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Bronte, titles of Beatle songs etc etc
I made a list of people in the media, some i had worked with, some I had not: Melvyn Bragg, David Dimbleby etc
The lists were not organised, I just wrote things down as quickly as I could remember. Over a few days I felt my memory did start to improve. Whether the list making was a help or not in my recovery I don’t know; I do recall it certainly made me feel better and it was was a good way of spending my days sitting on a hospital ward.
I do remember a consultant who visited me. I had never seen him on the ward before but he knew something about me.
“Mr. Taylor, tell me, what do you know about embryonic stem cells? I warmed to him straight away; he had clearly talked to the staff who had told him about a TV documentary I edited for Channel Four.
The documentary had featured a lady in the US who had walked again after being in a wheelchair for five years. (She had stem cells injected into her brain.)
Weeks after I was discharged I received a letter which referred me to a physiotherapist. I didn’t think I needed one, but… I was about to meet a lady who would transform my life.
At the first appointment she apologised, “I don’t know why you have been sent to me. I’ve only just received your file.”
She sat in front of me, read the file.
After a while she looked up, said, “I don’t think you realise how ill you have been. The doctor who saw you in A and E didn’t think you would survive.”
What had caused the persistent cough? After a CT scan I was finally diagnosed with COPD. I have been lucky in that area too as it only affects a small percentage of my lungs.
Five weeks later I returned for a check up at the hospital, I took a letter with me, handed it to the consultant who had treated me.
“Are you making a complaint?’ he asked. I was surprised by his question.
“No,” I replied, “it is a letter to say thank you for saving my life.”
“Oh, we don’t get many of those,” he replied.
Yes, I was lucky. I never had any long term side effects from Sepsis or being in the coma.
I still play golf, walk, swim.
My memory did return to its ‘normal’ life.
Would my memory have been permanently affected if I had not started my lists? I don’t know the answer to that but the sheer fact that I was writing lists made me feel better. It gave me the confidence that I could clear my brain of the sluggishness that had appeared after I woke up.
Good luck to anyone who should find themselves in the same situation.
Do I have Sepsis?
Sepsis symptoms – children under 5
Ron Taylor (ex BBC film editor, sometimes director)
Now: Writer/Game Developer
‘Three Days in the Dark – a Sepsis survivor’
Written in April, 2017