Husband died after a vasectomy We wanted worry free nookie, but hubby died week after op to stop me falling pregnant We were snuggled up in bed when Jem broke the news. ‘I’m thinking of having a vasectomy,’ he blurted out. ‘Really?’ I said, surprised. ‘Well, I thought it would help make things more…spontaneous!’ he explained, raising his eyebrows. It did make sense. After having Emily, now 18, and Thomas, 15, our family was complete. ‘If you’re sure?’ I said. He insisted. He felt it only fair that he do ‘his share’ after I’d been on the pill for almost ten years. He didn’t want me to keep putting chemicals into my body. ‘It’ll be easier for me babe,’ he promised. When he put it like that, it did make sense. So the following week saw his GP and was referred. ‘You’ll have no excuses for a bit of nookie soon,’ he teased as the date drew nearer. Jem underwent the operation the following march as an outpatient. Doctors advised a couple of days’ rest, but as it was a quick, routine op he was told he could go back to work after the weekend. ‘He said there might be a bit of pain and swelling but nothing I can’t handle,’ Jem said as I drove him home that Friday afternoon. Monday came and Jem, who was a director of a transport firm in Sutton Coldfield, went back to work. ‘Wait ‘til tonight!’ he winked as he kissed me goodbye. Of course he was joking, it was far too soon for bedroom antics yet. But we’d booked a summer holiday for the family in Menorca and we knew the operation would have taken effect by then. ‘Sun, sea and lots of you know what,’ chuckled Jem, rubbing his hands. But that evening he complained of feeling a bit peaky. And as the week progressed he became more ill. ‘I think it’s flu,’ he said. You know what men are like – a hint of a cold and they’re laid up in bed – but this time Jem really did seem poorly. By the Thursday he was laid up in bed vomiting, with diarrhoea and fever. The next day, he was no better. ‘I’m calling the doctor,’ I told him. He recognised a post-surgical infection and prescribed antibiotics. But unbeknown to us, it was already too late. The infection was out of control and standard antibiotics were not enough. Very early that Saturday morning, eight days after the operation, Jem woke up delirious, with blue lips and uncontrollable diarrhoea. Frantic, I called an ambulance. ‘You’ll be fine,’ I soothed as the paramedics rushed him to Goodhope Hospital. I assumed he was just dehydrated. My mum came over to look after the kids while I followed behind with his pyjamas. Of course, I was worried but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what would happen next… ‘Mrs Abbott?’ a nurse said as I rushed into reception. I was taken in to a side room, told Jem had suffered a massive heart attack because of septicaemia. It was the last time I ever spoke to him. ‘Can I see him?’ I asked. He had been put on a life-support machine and doctors were battling to save his failing organs. ‘I’m afraid things don’t look good,’ the consultant warned. The circulation was failing in Jem’s limbs. I was told to expect amputation of his fingers and toes, which had already been irreversibly damaged. I couldn’t believe it. We’d thought he’d had flu… The next two days, I didn’t leave Jem’s side. As his condition worsened, the doctors said they would need to remove all four of his limbs. ‘Is there nothing you can do?’ I begged, blinking back tears. An avid water-skier and motorcross enthusiast, I knew Jem would be devastated. ‘I’m afraid not,’ the consultant said. I wondered how I’d ever break the news to Jem. Deep down, I knew he wouldn’t want to be alive like that. He was a proud man, a sportsman, the life and soul of the party… But Jem got steadily worse. Within 24 hours his organs had started to fail and he was declared brain dead. ‘No!’ I wept. ‘He can’t be.’ ‘You might want to think about turning off his life support,’ the consultant said gently. But I just couldn’t… In the end, the decision was taken out of my hands. The following Tuesday doctors said Jem’s heart and other major organs were so damaged by the bacterial invasion that they wouldn’t sustain him. He died ten days after the vasectomy. Numb with grief I had to tell the children daddy had died. Seeing them so distraught broke my heart. It was so quick, it was impossible to take in. Jem had joked that in a few months time he’d be chasing me around the bedroom. Instead, he was lying dead in a hospital bed. His funeral was held two weeks later. Afterwards, I moved in with my mum and dad. They were great, helping me out with the kids. But as shock subsided guilt set in. Why hadn’t I had a coil fitted or opted for the contraceptive injection? We were supposed to be enjoying a lifetime of worry free nookie, now I was a widow at 37, bringing up two kids on my own…and all because of a routine vasectomy. It just didn’t make sense.I’d no idea septicaemia could kill young, fit people. I thought only frail hospital patients were at risk. We had to wait a year for the inquest. They couldn’t tell what the original bacterial infection was because, by the end, Jem had been given so many antibiotics they masked which bacteria had killed him. The coroner said that while septicaemia was the cause of death, there was no way of knowing where it had come from. The court heard how a vasectomy involves making a tiny incision to cut and tie off the ends of the tubes which carry sperm from the testicles. Jem’s fatal infection had apparently been caused by bacteria getting into the wound site, but there was no explanation for how it had happened. As septicaemia kills so rapidly, it could not be argued that the family GP had failed in his duty. The condition he’d observed had shown no outward sign of being a fatal infection, and he had given antibiotics correctly. Still, I couldn’t help thinking that Jem would still be alive if only he’d been treated for septicaemia sooner… As the months passed, I discovered there were thousands of similar tragedies like Jem’s every year. And although the frail and sick are at much greater risk, there have been fatal cases in babies and children, and even in people undergoing minor dental procedures. It’s thought that some, like Jem, may simply be genetically more susceptible to bacterial infection. The more I read, the more I knew I would do anything to prevent people going through the trauma experienced by my family. So two years after Jem’s death I joined forces with a new pressure group of worried senior doctors and nurses helping to set up a six step diagnosis programme for septicaemia. They set up the Sepsis Trust UK and I became a trustee. They’re urging doctors perform six key procedures – which include giving oxygen, antibiotics and fluids; taking blood cultures to identify the specific bacteria involved; monitoring blood characteristics and checking urine output – as soon as the patient arrives in hospital, which research has proved will make the difference between life and death. It made me more sure than ever that if Jem had been sent straight to hospital before the fatal weekend, he might not have died. If every single hospital started following these guidelines we would have a chance of starting to improve survival rates. I know the hospital staff tried everything they could to save Jem. But the sad fact is that by then it was already too late. If more people were aware of septacaemia and how it spreads, they could act sooner. Jem was a loving husband and fantastic father. Sadly, all of this is too late for him but I don’t want him to have died in vain. That’s why I’m involved in trying to educate people so they can save their loved ones and hopefully escape the pain I live with every day. Fore more information and to make a donation please visit www.sepsistrust.org <http://www.sepsistrust.org>
*Disclaimer: Results May Vary From Person To Person.