Ema Page’s dad, Graham, was a healthy 67-year-old who in the space of one day went from feeling unwell and coming back from work early to losing his life to sepsis.
Graham had a family-owned butcher’s shop in Harwich, Essex, where he was popular and well-known. The business had been in the family for over 90 years and he had worked there all his life with never a day off.
Ema had been visiting her parents, as usual, on the day before Graham became ill. He was spending time with his 10-months-old grandson Archie, who he adored, and gave him his last feed before Ema returned home.
The following day, Friday December 3, Graham went to work as usual but left early saying he was feeling a little under the weather.
Ema’s Mum and Graham’s wife of 43 years, Barbara, texted to let her know her dad was in bed with a cold but wouldn’t take even a Paracetamol.
A friend of Barbara’s had called her and while chatting she asked Barbara if Graham was breathing ok. After checking, Barbara thought it was a bit shallow but nothing too out of the ordinary but an hour later, worried by what her friend had said, she phoned the NHS 111 call line.
Ema said: “The operator was amazing. He asked about my dad’s breathing and colour and, when mum said his colour was a little off, the operator said he would call an ambulance. We thought it was a little silly – why does he need an ambulance, he’s just a little sick?”
At that point there seemed no cause for alarm with one of the ambulance crew even telling Graham he would see him in a couple of days to pick up his Christmas order and Barbara calling Ema to let her know her dad was in hospital but not to worry.
An hour later the situation changed dramatically with Barbara calling Ema to tell her to get to the hospital as quickly as possible and with a nurse advising Barbara to contact her son Roger, who lived in the United States, to catch the next flight.
Ema said: “My brother never made it home in time. Dad had died, it was horrendous. I watched the doctors pumping him with medicine and then saying he needed an operation – he had no spleen. This was when we were given the diagnosis of sepsis and I didn’t even know what it was.”
“We couldn’t comprehend Dad had no spleen. That was the last time we saw him conscious. He came out of theatre black and I will never forget the colour of his skin. All his organs had failed. We were able to say goodbye and he slipped away – just seven hours had passed and he was gone.”
“We waited weeks for the post mortem, as it was Christmas, and when the findings arrived there was no evidence of how or why sepsis had got into Dad’s body.”
Ema said the doctors and nurses at Colchester Hospital where Graham was taken were wonderful but was shocked by the way a doctor broke the news that he was going to die.
“I will never forget his words, his cruel words to my already frightened dad and us,” she said.
Ema, who raised money for sepsis research at her birthday party, added: “I didn’t even know what sepsis was until that day. I now notice posters, labels on milk cartons, the side of vans, bus shelters and the walls of doctors’ surgeries. It’s a shame we never notice these things until it’s too late. Now, at every occasion, I tell people Dad’s story.”