Fern Britton has revealed that she was left ‘fighting for her life’ after she developed sepsis and pneumonia after a routine hysterectomy operation.
Fern, 59, had undergone the procedure because of a ‘long-standing’ battle with fibroids, and says that she received fantastic care throughout her time in a local private hospital. But when she returned home three days later, she quickly realised that something wasn’t right.
‘Four days after the op, I was [still] in a lot of pain,’ mum-of-four Fern, who is married to TV chef Phil Vickery, recalls to Prima magazine. ‘I called the hospital at 3am and they suggested paracetamol and a wait-and-see approach, but by the next day the pain had intensified so much that I could barely walk.’
Phil then phoned the emergency services, but by the time they arrived, Fern was being sick and feeling better, so she declined to return to hospital.
‘That was quite a bad decision,’ she admits. ‘By the next day, I was shivering and my muscles and joints were hurting. However, getting emergency help wasn’t straightforward. The GP on duty at my surgery was too busy to come out and she and the emergency-call handler felt my symptoms didn’t warrant an ambulance.’
Eventually, a receptionist at the surgery overrode the other decisions and sent the ambulance anyway. ‘It’s no exaggeration to say that I owe her my life,’ Fern adds.
Tests revealed that the former This Morning host had E. coli in her blood and several abscesses in her abdomen, and she was rushed into emergency surgery – at which time she says she was ‘resigned to dying’.
‘The theatre nurse offered to put a plaster over my wedding ring. Instead, I took off my ring and gave it to my daughter, who was with me. I hated the thought of them taking it from my dead body to give to her. So, I said, “You look after it for me”.’
‘I survived, but the battle wasn’t over… A day or so later, I developed pneumonia and my lung collapsed. But I pulled through, thanks to the incredible NHS team who looked after me beyond anything I could have hoped for.’
Speaking to the Daily Mail about her brush with sepsis, Fern said: ‘We need to be more aware of sepsis. More than 250,000 people contract sepsis in the UK every year, with 44,000 dying from it.’
‘One of the symptons is that you feel as if you are dying. I certainly felt that. It’s hard for me to describe why I felt that, but the pain and sense of losing the fight was very strong. I didn’t say anything though. So don’t just feel it, say it.’