Reflections from the front line, take 2: If only all hospitals were like this

An accommodating stay while facing sepsis from a urinary tract infection

John Connor avatar

by John Connor |

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As last week’s column ended, I’d just negotiated with my ambulance driver and paramedics to take me to any London hospital other than the one where I’d spent the Christmas months. They offered me St George’s Hospital, which I knew to be the major trauma center ’round these here parts. It would be farther for Saint Jane (my wife) to visit, but I wanted to keep those to a minimum anyway.

Our family has been going through crisis after crisis. Nothing to do with my multiple sclerosis (MS). Well, some of it partly was: how bad my general behavior had been. I was aware of that tendency and even wrote about it in one of my early columns about how MS may cause anger. But you can’t always blame MS — it could well just be me, exaggerated by my illness. So we’ve now agreed to have family therapy.

All this summary is something of an aside to the tale of my infection. But as comedy scriptwriter and director Nancy Meyers so eloquently summed up life in one of her films, “it’s complicated.”

Back to illness.

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I was eventually moved from a gurney to a far more comfortable hospital bed, then given a light and airy, curtained-off space in the emergency department. The bed was still a bit too small in the length department, but I was far too ill to notice. There was a long wait to get on a ward, anyway. It turned out I was too ill for that, as well.

The emergency doctor was obviously worried about me. He kept flicking my chest to keep me awake as I kept crashing into sleep. That was a new medical technique for me. It certainly worked, though.

It turns out that sleepy-byes along with low blood pressure are early signs of sepsis. The urinary tract infection had escaped from my bladder and gotten into the bloodstream. If that kept up, I’d have to take some nasty-sounding drugs, vasopressors, to increase my blood pressure. Otherwise, my organs, starting with my kidneys, would begin to shut down.

The infection had been assessed by the lab as gram-positive bacteria, a common cause, though they hadn’t narrowed it down more than that. A widespread antibiotic, co-amoxiclav, was fired directly into my bloodstream.

My doctor raised an eyebrow when I obviously reacted badly to this news. I was well aware that this load of gremlins was particularly nasty. Doing research was my modus operandi long before I started writing about MS. The tools of journalism are like riding a bike — though I last managed that circa 2010! Nae bad, as we British say, when I’d been finally diagnosed in 2009.

If Saint Jane hadn’t called for the ambulance when she did, I’d be tumbling down the black brick road to death.

Long ago, I’d chosen a no-resuscitation policy. I might be saved, yet acquire a heart condition or suffer more of a brain injury than I was now dealing with. I wasn’t going to inflict that on me or my family. They all immediately agreed. The rotters!

My stay in the emergency department was short-lived. Saint Jane went home, and I was put into a RESUS, or resuscitation, room, one stage away from the intensive care unit. I could tell it was spelled in capitals, at least here, as a massive painted RESUS sign was on the wall. I was regularly monitored by nurses, and my blood pressure was checked automatically by a machine every 10 minutes. Great. I wasn’t awakened by the staff all night.

I eventually woke up shivering under the intense air conditioning in RESUS. As I no longer had a fever, extra blankets were provided. My blood pressure had also stabilized, climbing out of the danger zone. The antibiotic was working. It looked like there’d be none of those horrible vasopressors for me.

Better I got kicked back to the emergency department, I thought, this time to wait for a ward. Every unit I visited had a new, concerned, and ginned-up doctor, who explained exactly what was going on without any need of input from me. I was dead impressed, or rather alive impressed.

My nurse even noticed when I suddenly groaned. I was now sweating under all my necessary blankets. She gave me a bed bath and changed the sheets, then also noticed how scrunched up I was. She eventually worked out how to extend the bed. Bliss.

Finally, I made it onto a ward, where I was told I was so ill I’d be kicked upstairs to one where monitoring was far more intense. Instead, three days later, I’d recovered so much I was suddenly discharged.

As the Bard put it, “all’s well that ends well.”

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Alice Eller avatar

Alice Eller

Please take care of yourself. I LOVE your articles

John Connor avatar

John Connor

I love your comment. x

Heather avatar


Thank you for sharing your MS journey with us. Sending healing thoughts your way.



so glad that they took good care of you and maybe now things will get much better for glad all is take care for we all enjoy your blog ...keep staying well and much happiness and much laughter to go with it and happiness...


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