THE festive period over Christmas and New Year is usually a happy and memorable time for most people. For Mike Mahoney, December 2018 and January 2019 will always be unforgettable but for all the wrong reasons after he fell very seriously ill with sepsis. Seventeen months after being discharged Mike still has a range of medical complications which he says nobody seems to be able to work out. The trauma of surviving respiratory failure, pneumonia, kidney failure, repeated heart attacks and a two-week long coma after contracting the illness still makes him feel scared.
Mike, 49, from Rochdale in Lancashire, started to feel ill during the week leading up to Christmas 2018 but, as managing director of his own company, put it down to having to work long hours and stress caused by business worries.
He told his wife, Clare, that he had never felt so ill but being familiar with the ‘man-flu’ joke he simply took some over the counter medication and carried on.
Mike said: “I just continued to feel ill, very chesty, coughing a lot, severe headache, severe chills followed by extreme sweats. I am the sort of person who just carries on and pushes through. On Christmas Eve we had to go to a farm to collect our Christmas meat order and I honestly thought I was going to pass out. I felt like I was dying.
“I made the decision we would ask our family not to come round for Christmas dinner as I felt so ill. When I woke up on Christmas Day I felt right as rain so Christmas dinner was back on but by 3pm I had started hallucinating in the kitchen then dropping things. I managed to get through dinner but was falling asleep in the lounge and felt like I was dying again.
“After family had gone home, I said to Clare I would sleep on the sofa as I was coughing so much and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the stairs. I called 111 at around 3am as I felt so ill and I explained that my temperature was through the roof and I was freezing and hallucinating.”
Mike was told an ambulance would be despatched and made it to his front door to unlock it. Then he passed out on the sofa, waking again 4.30am but not able to move and even struggling to lift his head. He managed to call 111 again only to be told the ambulance had been diverted to an emergency.
Mike said: “I decided I didn’t want Clare or my 13-year-old daughter, Emily, to find me slumped on the floor dead as I knew I was dying. I tried to make myself presentable and sat into the corner so they wouldn’t find me on the floor.”
It was four hours later, at 8.30, when he was awakened by paramedics banging on the door.
“I managed to shout it’s open, and that’s when all hell broke loose – lines going in, being given oxygen and being asked loads of questions I could not answer. Clare heard the
commotion and came down and I was glad to get what I thought would be the last look at my wife.
“In the ambulance I heard the paramedics calling ahead saying ‘we have an unresponsive male, with a temperature of 104 and sats (oxygen saturation) of 72, query sepsis’. Once in hospital I believe I briefly improved but by lunchtime I was heading to ICU as my sats were all over the place.”
Mike had been taken to the Royal Oldham Hospital where he was put into an induced coma on 27th December.
He said: “I believe at this point no one had mentioned sepsis to my wife. I was in respiratory failure caused by bilateral pneumonia brought on by Influenza A. I was now ventilated and started to go into kidney failure and was placed on dialysis.
“It was after this event that one of the ICU nurses mentioned it could be sepsis. I had the first of three heart attacks on the 4th January 2019. I also had some cardiac arrests and I remember one incident where I felt I was looking down on myself being worked on.
“I was in the coma for a further two weeks and had a tracheotomy but I was so unwell I kept trying to pull the tubes out. I had a week of psychosis where I was convinced I was being held hostage and injected to keep me there.”
Mike was kept at the Royal Oldham until 4th February and says he had the “best of treatment” while in intensive care. “It was truly unbelievable according to my family who were there every day, until the point where I was moved to a normal ward and then, sadly, it was poor.”
Mike is still receiving treatment and with the support of his family he is recovering but has been disappointed by the aftercare from the NHS since discharge which he said has been “practically non-existent”.
The trauma of contracting and surviving sepsis has changed Mike’s outlook on life. He said: “I brushed the coma off and still do but I am scared. I have nightmares every single night and some nights I am scared to go to sleep.
“We must continue to support each other and push for better training for GP’s on sepsis and to raise awareness of sepsis symptoms so everyone can recognise them.
“I’d also urge people to support Sepsis Research FEAT as the only charity in the UK raising funds for research into this terrifying and potentially deadly illness to find new treatments which will defeat it more quickly and effectively.”