A senior Unison manager has told of how he sat for 12 hours at home in agony with sepsis, through fear of using the health service.
Peter Hunter, 56, eventually had to call an ambulance and was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) where he underwent life-saving surgery to remove infected tissue from his bowel, caused by a severe internal hernia.
Now, three weeks later and back home recovering, Peter has praised the health service and warned others not to hold off seeking help if they have severe symptoms.
Peter said: “How do I begin to thank staff when they’ve saved my life and did it with skill, kindness and courage? All at the peak of the pandemic – the worst time in their careers? Frankly it was an incredible and humbling experience.
“I’ve had this severe recurring pain for many years, and it was never diagnosed. I had been dreading an attack during the pandemic because I didn’t want to burden the NHS and I didn’t think they’d be able to help me with the pain. I tried to tough it out, a white-knuckle ride through the pain. I was wrong.
“I am mindful that people have had very distressing health experiences this past year but what I witnessed was very clear. We have an amazing health system. Principally that relies on the talent, compassion and energy of tireless health workers.
“Despite the brutal pressure of the pandemic our emergency services are functioning well. They gave me the best health support I’ve ever had, at the vital time for me, in the worst circumstances for them.
“I’d urge anyone who has severe symptoms to make sure to phone and get the help they need. Our health care system is still here and it’s still looking after non-COVID patients.”
Peter who has a complex medical history, thought he would be able to ride out the pain, which has been recurring on and off for a number of years. Known as a strangulated hernia – the knot in Peter’s bowel had begun to cause so much damage that much of his small intestine’s tissue had become poisoned, causing sepsis to set in. If Peter had waited any longer, he could well have died.
Luckily, experienced staff at the QEUH were able to rapidly diagnose the problem and cut out the infected tissue. Peter underwent multiple surgeries in his first week and was kept alive on a ventilator in ICU until his body was strong enough to move into a general recovery ward, where he spent another two weeks working closely with physiotherapists to get back on his feet. Due to the complex and life-changing nature of the surgery, Peter also received additional care from the psychological team at the QEUH who were on hand to provide guidance and support regarding his condition.
Peter said: “After my operation, I was naturally quite scared – it's going to be a big change for me, but the counselling staff were on hand to provide support as soon as I asked for it and it really helped. I was also determined to get mobile as quickly as possible after surgery as I felt guilty having taken up bed space. Again, the physiotherapists were there to help me get moving, get strong and get home
“We have an amazing health service and it’s a huge testament to the system that it’s still able to cope and to treat emergency patients such as myself during this difficult time. Without this, I wouldn’t be alive today.”
Frances McLinden, South Director for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said:
“Across our hospital sites we have a wonderful, highly experienced workforce who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic to ensure patients continue to receive all emergency and urgent care, despite the pandemic. Peter’s case is just one example of how different specialisms within the service continue to operate to provide a complete package of care for patients.
“Peter’s case should act as a reminder to us all that if you are suffering severe distress and you’re worried about coming to hospital, don’t hesitate in seeking treatment. We have extremely strict protocols to avoid the risk of virus transmission, and our staff continue to treat both COVID and non-COVID-19 patients.”
For further information either telephone 0141 201 4429 or email press.of[email protected]ggc.scot.nhs.uk