Admitted to ICU at the Countess of Chester Hospital with suspected Avian flu, it was discovered I also had Strep A and double pneumonia, by this time, I had already succumbed to sepsis and was moving through the phases of septic shock, heart failure, kidney failure & respiratory failure.
After 2 weeks in a medically induced coma, it looked like I had overcome this only to plunge into the abyss for a further 6 weeks as I was diagnosed with severe ARDS. My family were told, on a few occasions, to prepare for the worst, it would take a miracle for me to survive, I was proned 3 times during this period only to pick up various other life threatening virus infections and be diagnosed with leukemia.
My family were told if I survived all this I might be brain damaged and/or unable to survive the treatment for leukemia - life appeared hopeless. I woke up and started the monumental haul back to a regular life. I embarked on an extensive programme of physiotherapy to combat ICU acquired weakness, trying to get my whole body to work again, learning to sit over the bed, use my hands & fingers, walk again, kneel, lie down, get up, eat, drink, wash and speak. I was discharged from hospital 4 months later once I could climb and descend a flight of stairs.
I struggled with cognitive dysfunction, ICU acquired weakness, myopathy & nerve damage eventually finding myself at the rehabilitation gym session at COCH where at last I met others who had been through what I had, being able to speak about the nightmare of boredom and isolation, vulnerability & confusion. To be able bodied one minute and as dependant as a baby the next, overcoming the shame, guilt and constant invasion of privacy. To at last speak to people who truly understood about exhaustion.
The germ of an idea was sown in that gym class and during conversations with Carole Thompson my Critical Care Outreach nurse - 3 months later, with the support of the Outreach team and Physiotherapists Sophie Horton and Lisa Davies, we held our first meeting of ICUsteps Chester.