John’s mission to raise awareness of sepsis

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A Stratford man who lost his leg from sepsis is determined to prevent others suffering what he went through by raising awareness of the potentially fatal condition.

John McCarthy, 48, developed sepsis following a seemingly innocuous knock on the leg he suffered while on a day out at Cheltenham Races.

John said: “I just knocked it against a barrier, it was quite sore, but the pain just got worse and worse, it got painful to put weight on that leg and I got a rash so I went to the hospital.

“They said I had cellulitis and prescribed medication which was a bit of a relief, but as I left a doctor came out and drew a line across my leg and told me if the rash goes above the line I should come back.

“In the end I couldn’t wait that long, I realise now I was exhibiting the six signs of sepsis, it was so painful I went back and I stayed in hospital for three months. It was touch and go at one point, I even had the last rites. I feel unlucky to have got sepsis, but very lucky that I’m here today considering how serious it was.

“After leaving hospital I developed depression, anxiety, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder, which all comes with a condition known as post-sepsis syndrome, something a lot of sepsis patients develop.

“The Sepsis Trust helped me with all this and now I represent them, speaking at events across the country, I’ve been at York Races and Cambridge University recently. I really enjoy working with the Trust, it’s cathartic for me and it helps me get over what happened to me. I sometimes focus on the clinical side if I’m talking to a medical audience, other times I will mostly talk about the work done by the Trust, it just all depends who I’m speaking to. It’s a big part of my life, raising awareness.

“If more people knew the symptoms of sepsis and if doctors are aware of the warning signs, maybe others won’t have to lose a leg like I did, I don’t want anyone to go through what I have had to go through.

“44,000 people die of sepsis each year in the UK, you can get it from something as innocent as pricking your hand on a rosebush, it’s a blood poisoning that basically causes the immune system to turn on itself. But if you spot the symptoms early it can make a big difference.”

Dr Ron Daniels MBE, founder of the Sepsis Trust, said: “Sepsis is a condition that affects around 250,000 people in the UK each year and results in the deaths of 44,000 people, more than breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer combined. Around 60,000 are left with life changing problems which can be physical or psychological.

“The symptoms can vary between patients and if you have an infection and your feel very ill, we want people to be prepared to ask their doctor ‘is this sepsis?’. If you are worried you should visit our website to find out about the symptoms.

“John is amazing and he’s brilliant at getting our message across and he helps us at the drop of a hat. We were at the Grand National at the weekend and he went around every hospitality box and asked if he could leave some our sepsis symptom awareness cards.”

For information about the symptoms of sepsis and the Sepsis Trust visit https://sepsistrust.org/.