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When I entered the register office in Birmingham I did not expect to see the words ‘septicaemia’ written at the top of the ‘reason for death’ list. I didn’t click, even when he showed the signs and symptoms of septicaemia. My father had lung cancer, he had COPD, but he didn’t have septicaemia… did he? I felt my rage burn inside as I read the certificate, fully aware of how and when things had gone severely wrong for my father. The truth of his experience pieced together inside my mind like a jigsaw, and I saw nothing but red. The lady who handed my mother and I the certificate seemed oblivious, as if we already knew… but we only fully understood the situation when we saw it in black and white.
My Father’s Death Story
My dad was sick for a very long time. I remember finding out about his lung cancer whilst shopping in Tesco. I was pregnant with George and all I wanted to do was stop whatever was coming for him, change his path, keep him alive for as long as possible. Unfortunately we don’t have these magical powers, but we do have the precious time before the light goes out.
He wasn’t given long to live (6-9 months if I recall correctly…), but he surpassed their expectations. Truth be told, I don’t think doctors always know the reality of how long someone will live, they have to guess based on the facts. He lived for many years after his diagnosis and towards the end he was skin and bone.
I remember feeling quite selfish as my parents cancelled a day out with me, because he wasn’t feeling well. I remember thinking it was odd when I went to visit and he was totally knackered, tucked up in bed. For some reason I’d bought him a small angel wind-chime to hang in his room, and this was when I found out he’d been prescribed heart medication from his GP for his suddenly increased heartbeat. Something didn’t feel right, but for some reason I couldn’t work it out. We queried it amongst ourselves, but never went any further with it, because we trusted the GP.
It didn’t take long for his body to give way to the poison, and he was soon in hospital. My mother and I sat in a room with a doctor who told us that was that; no reasons, no explanation, not much comfort.
‘He has a day or two, say goodbye now.’
I’m not being accurate with wording here, but this is how it felt from my point of view. I called friends and family, told them to come and say goodbye. And always there was this niggling feeling in my mind about his illness, what was really going on, I felt duped because it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. What weren’t they telling us?!
When the certificate was placed in our hands I flipped. The penny dropped. He most likely had pneumonia that led to septicaemia. We’d missed the signs, yes, but so had a fully trained GP…
During the months following his death, I toyed with the idea of filing for medical negligence, but I felt it wasn’t my place and my mother wasn’t keen. I still think about it. Not for money, but to hold the GP accountable, because who knows how many other people have died because of misdiagnosis…
I can’t even think about it.
So there’s my father’s death story. He didn’t die from lung cancer, he died from untreated and undiagnosed septicaemia.
I have wanted to write this for a very long time, and I feel there’s so much more to say. I do want to end this post in a helpful way, so I’ve created a checklist for sepsis/septicaemia, and I’m also going to talk about the difference between the two.
Septicaemia is a widely used term, but there is a difference between this and sepsis. Septicaemia is often referred to as ‘blood poisoning’, because it refers to large amounts of bacteria within the blood running through the body. Sepsis is more widespread, affecting organs within the body, or the entire body itself, but it doesn’t mean blood poisoning is occurring at the same time.
I think it’s a bit confusing, but the symptoms are very similar, so I’ve pieced them together in the below chart…
Sepsis & Septicaemia Signs and Symptoms
|Please click here for detailed signs and symptoms.|