‘Foggy was my soulmate and my best friend,’ Jane (pictured) says. ‘We’d grown up together in the little Welsh coastal town of Porthcawl’
Orthopaedic surgeon Tony Fogg had rarely taken a day off sick in 27 years. As his wife, Jane, explains: ‘When you’ve got a clinic full of people waiting to see you, you can’t just phone in and have a duvet day.
‘If he felt unwell, he got on with it and I was the same. Like most medical families, our medicine cabinet at home contained some paracetamol and if you were lucky, a couple of plasters.’
Tony, a spinal surgeon at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, was a big character.
Known by all as Foggy, he was full of joie de vivre, with a passion for fast cars, and at 64 was at the top of his game, relishing work in the department he’d helped establish.
Jane, also 64, had happily given up a career in fashion to raise their three children, Ben now 37, Jack, 35 and Anna 33.
‘Foggy was my soulmate and my best friend,’ she says. ‘We’d grown up together in the little Welsh coastal town of Porthcawl — Foggy always used to say I asked him to marry me which I refused to believe.
‘After 40 years together, we still had a really great marriage. We just loved being together.’
At the beginning of March last year, Jane booked them a mini break to the Hague to see a painting — the subject of a book, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, which they’d both been reading.
‘Any excuse for a weekend away in a luxury hotel,’ she recalls with a laugh.
‘When Foggy came home from work on the Thursday evening feeling grotty, I said something like: “Oh man up, you’ve got a cold.”
The next day, I woke up feeling rough too and I thought, well that serves me right for being unsympathetic.’
At that point neither of them would have described their symptoms as worrying. ‘They were nothing more than a scratchy sore throat and prickly eyes,’ says Jane.
They pressed ahead with their trip, flying to the Hague on Friday. ‘We walked around a museum, went out for supper.
We felt fine’ she says. ‘On Saturday, we were sneezing a lot, but not feverish, just a bit zonked and coldy.’
But by Saturday evening both were feeling really unwell. Exhausted, achey, with coughs and chest pain, they were now desperate to get home.
‘We flew back on Sunday,’ says Jane. ‘And that evening, Foggy said: “I’m going to phone and cancel my clinic tomorrow.”
Which was unheard of for him. We thought we had ghastly flu — we went to bed early, thinking we’d feel better in a couple of days.’
In fact, Tony Fogg was already developing the sepsis that would kill him.
Jane, 64, had happily given up a career in fashion to raise her and Tony’s three children.‘After 40 years together, we still had a really great marriage,’ she said. ‘We just loved being together’
Sepsis is where the immune system overreacts to an infection, and attacks its own organs and tissues.
It can occur as the result of a bacterial, fungal or viral infection, and can start with any type of infection, including following something seeming as trivial as a cut, bite or sting.
If not spotted and treated quickly, it can rapidly lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure, organ failure and death sometimes within a few hours.
Every year sepsis kills 44,000 people in the UK — more than breast, prostate cancer and road accidents combined.
There is a worrying lack of awareness among the public and medical professionals alike, leading to thousands of needless deaths, and the Mail has been backing calls by the charity the UK Sepsis Trust for a nationwide awareness campaign.
The Health Secretary has pledged to act, and later today he is due to meet again with the charity and Melissa Mead, whose one-year-old son William died of sepsis after the warning signs were missed.
There are high hopes that Mr Hunt will soon announce an awareness campaign. But every day of delay costs lives.
Part of the problem with sepsis is that the initial symptoms are vague and can be confused with other, more benign conditions.
‘Sepsis can arise from any type of infection so it’s often hard to diagnose,’ explains Dr Ron Daniels, the chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust.
‘In its early stages, sepsis can look and feel like a bad case of flu. The difference with sepsis is that it’s likely to make you feel much worse.’
Through Monday, the Foggs stayed in bed, expecting the ‘flu’ symptoms to pass. ‘At some point on Tuesday morning, Foggy said: “I’m not happy with the way I’m feeling, I’m going to phone Tim (the family GP),” says Jane.
‘I think he may have stopped peeing which, being a doctor, he knew was a classic symptom of sepsis. But he didn’t share very much with me — he wouldn’t have wanted to worry me.’
The GP immediately called an ambulance which arrived in minutes and the couple were rushed to the hospital where Foggy worked.
‘I felt pretty done in, but not so ill that I couldn’t put on some make-up and blow dry my fringe while we waited for the ambulance,’ Jane says.
‘And we walked into AE, chatting away. It all felt terribly relaxed because we were in Foggy’s hospital and everyone knew him.’
‘I felt terrible, but I clearly remember thinking: A week! Oh, that’s really boring because we had plans for the weekend. Even then, there was no sense of dread or panic,’ Jane says
What happened next was ‘like being in a very bad film’, says Jane. She waved goodbye to her husband and then she was taken one way, he another.
‘I didn’t grasp the seriousness of the situation at all, and I don’t know if Foggy did — or whether he was just trying to protect me.
‘The next time I saw him he was unconscious.’
He was taken to intensive care and put on intravenous antibiotics and a ventilator machine — Jane found out later that he’d been asked whether he wanted someone to phone the children and he’d said: “Don’t be ridiculous! They’re all busy.”
‘That is my great consolation,’ says Jane. ‘He wasn’t worried, he wasn’t frightened, he was surrounded by his colleagues and as far as he was concerned, they were going to get on top of the infection and he would get better.’
In another room in intensive care Jane was given intravenous antibiotics and told that they would be in hospital for about a week.
‘I felt terrible, but I clearly remember thinking: A week! Oh, that’s really boring because we had plans for the weekend. Even then, there was no sense of dread or panic.’
Blood tests showed that Jane and Tony both had swine flu and a Streptococcus A infection — a common cause of throat infection, and not normally a serious threat to health.
Illustration of a blood infection. Sepsis can begin under the cover of any infection, such as flu, a tummy bug, a chest infection or even a sore throat
‘Foggy must have caught swine flu in the hospital then given it to me,’ says Jane.
But Tony had also caught a third, water-borne infection, possibly from something he’d eaten or drunk in the Hague. The combination caused Tony’s immune system to go into overdrive as it tried to fight the three sources of infection.
Within hours of being admitted, Tony’s condition had deteriorated to the point that his colleagues had to tell Jane that he was not responding to antibiotics and they might not be able to save him.
‘I’ll never forget it. Someone came in to tell me that Tony’s life was hanging by a thread.’
The shock of those words still makes her cry. ‘I just said: “What? It can’t be!” I couldn’t believe it or take it in.’
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, a decision was made to move Tony to Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, a specialist centre for cirtical care.
Their children gathered round their adored father, and although still very unwell, Jane discharged herself to be with him, too.
‘It was Foggy, lying there, but it wasn’t him,’ she says. ‘His skin was mottled and he was covered with tubes and wires. The worst part for me — for any mother — is seeing your kids broken, and there’s nothing you can do to help them.
NHS STAFF MUST TREAT BLOOD POISONING WITH SAME URGENCY AS A HEART ATTACK
Doctors and nurses must treat sepsis with the same urgency as heart attacks, the NHS watchdog has ordered.
They must ask themselves ‘could this be sepsis?’ whenever they see patients with a rash, high temperature or raised pulse.
NICE’s first-ever guidelines for diagnosing and treating sepsis follow a damning report into the death of one-year-old William Mead
Anyone suspected of having the deadly condition – also known as blood poisoning or septicaemia – must be sent to hospital via emergency ambulance and be seen immediately by a senior doctor or nurse.
NICE’s first-ever guidelines for diagnosing and treating sepsis follow a damning report into the death of one-year-old William Mead in 2014 which exposed a string of NHS failures.
NICE confirmed that William’s death had resulted in the guidelines being published far earlier than planned.
The watchdog started drawing up the recommendations early in 2014, before William died, amid concerns that thousands of patients were dying needlessly.
‘There was so much disbelief and shock, that a healthy, vibrant man who was so full of energy could be reduced to this body on a table in such a short time.’
‘We were told he was close to death,’ Jane says. ‘But we clung to the smallest glimmer of hope that he’d pull through.’ Then on March 19, eight days after he was admitted, Tony suffered a massive heart attack and died.
‘Nobody can prepare you for it,’ says Jane. ‘Just a week before, we’d sat chatting in a bar in the Hague and decided we had at least ten really good years ahead of us to travel the world before we started getting creaky.’
After Tony died, Jane received hundreds of letters from grateful patients. ‘He made my daughter walk again,’ one wrote . ‘He transformed my life,’ said another. Did it help?
‘No,’ she cries. ‘It made it worse. Foggy did so much good, he was still operating three times a week, making people’s lives better. Why did he have to die?’
‘There is just this awful, unbearable emptiness.’
Jane doesn’t torture herself with what might have been done to save Tony. ‘Everyone did everything they could. They were fantastic. The real problem was that we didn’t realise what was happening until it was too late.’
This is the key point that the UK Sepsis Trust and their supporters want to stress to families and healthcare professionals alike, to ‘think sepsis’ and get medical help quickly.
As Dr Daniels is at pains to point out: ‘With sepsis, every hour counts — even if you don’t have the key warning signs if you or your loved one has an infection and are getting steadily worse, and you just know something is wrong, have the courage of your convictions, contact your GP or NHS 111 and ask: Could this be sepsis?’
The Great Western had a huge memorial party for Tony, and the family held another.
‘We had community singing and an auction for the UK Sepsis Trust — someone paid £150 for a ball of string, just because they wanted to help.’
It’s the little things she misses. ‘When this happens, you don’t just lose the man you love, you lose everything you did together.
‘You no longer go to the pub for fish chips. You no longer go to the cinema. I suddenly realised: Foggy’s gone and so has my life. I am lost without him.’