"Homerton..."

About: Homerton University Hospital

I was admitted by ambulance in May 2012 after feeling extremely ill/feverish for over a week, first an A&E doctor tried to convince me I was a drug addict before another doctor worked out I was actually suffering from a serious heart infection, pretty unusual for an otherwise healthy 34 year old. I was moved onto a cardiac ward where they hooked me up to broad spectrum antibiotics (the Domestos of the IV world) and basically left for three weeks whilst the infection ate away at my mitral valve. I wasn't involved at all in decisions and asked few questions because I was being slowly destroyed by the effects of the infection and really not thinking straight. I'm a vegetarian and the food was universally awful, the infection was stripping weight off me by the kilo and I hadn't seen an appetising meal in weeks - ever seen that 'Pasta 'n Sauce' stuff? Pretty much that. Every day. Anyway, a team of trainee doctors headed by an apparently clueless consultant dutifully visited me daily, prodded and poked and took blood to try and identify the cause of the infection, which would tell them the antibiotic they'd need to treat it. About two weeks in I was accidentally given another patient's medication because the agency nurses made a mistake. This caused me to be moved to a close observation bed, I didn't realise at the time but this was also because I was dying. Another week on was the Jubilee weekend and my usual doctors were away for the bank holiday. Very luckily for me, a locum doctor noticed how sick I was and that what I thought was asthma might well not be, so after an early morning X-ray then a CT scan, arrangements were made to transfer me to the London Chest Hospital. It wasn't asthma, my mitral valve had disintegrated to such an extent that it was regurgitating blood and fluids into my chest cavity and slowly drowning me. After the transfer, I was prepped for surgery the next day and it was explained to me that I would need a replacement heart valve - this was the first time surgery had even been mentioned. I was actually too weak the first time they took me in so I spent another two days in ICU, on different antibiotics, and eventually had open heart surgery on 8th June. I was told if I'd been any less fit when the infection hit or any older, I probably wouldn't have made it (thanks, Homerton!). About a week later they identified what was causing the infection and changed my IV, from that point I got steadily better until I left hospital after 7 weeks. I intentionally attended my one month checkup on my mountain bike, I've been snowboarding twice since then and I ran a 10k for the hospital a year and a day after my op. I've tried to find out who the locum doctor was but with no luck so far, I need to thank her as much as my surgeon and his team for saving my life.

Story from NHS Choices

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