A bladder infection left me in a coma

Published Thursday, Jan 29 2015, 20:00 GMT  |  By  |  1 comment
What started as a urinary tract infection left author Lucy Lord, 44, unconscious for nine days and learning to walk again

"I stared at the blank screen, unable to form a single sentence. I was stuck on my latest novel, my third book, and the crippling back and tummy ache I'd had for the last few days weren't helping.

Not for the first time, I googled 'kidney infection', panicking slightly as the symptoms came up. There was nothing for it – I had to go to the doctor.

Lucy Lord, A bladder infection left me in a coma

© Jas Lehal

Lucy was unconscious for nine days

The emergency locum told me I had a bladder infection, combined with constipation. Nice. But at least not life-threatening. Reassured, I went home with antibiotics and laxatives.

The following night, I lay crying in bed, shivering and sweating, occasionally running to the loo to vomit. Andy Wass, my husband, grew increasingly worried. It was obvious I was getting worse and that evening, on 30 October 2013, I was rushed to hospital by ambulance.

I was given gas and air, codeine and paracetamol but nothing could alleviate the excruciating pain. When doctors finally diagnosed an acute kidney infection, I was given some anaesthetic and I went to sleep, convinced I'd feel better when I woke up.

But the next evening I found it increasingly difficult to breathe. I could feel the nurses' panic as they put an oxygen mask over my face.

I asked if I was going to die, but no one would answer. The last thing I remember is being wheeled to intensive care.

When I woke up I had no idea how many hours or days had passed. My mum and dad were either side of me, holding a hand each. There were tubes coming out of both my arms, my hair was matted to my head, somebody was changing my nappy and I couldn't move my legs.

I'd been unconscious for nine days.

I was told that the infection had spread from my bladder to my kidneys and then to my lungs. I'd been put into an induced coma to treat the infection and at one point, a doctor had told Andy to 'prepare for the worst'.

And all the time I was under I experienced petrifying hallucinations that the doctors and nurses were all out to kill me. In one, I was on a Titanic-like ship that the captain was trying to sink – with the express purpose of drowning me.

Even after I was transferred from intensive care to a recovery ward, I continued to hallucinate – although these visions were a lot more pleasant. For nearly a week I was convinced that I was back at uni, it was Freshers' Week, and that the handsome physiotherapist had taken me for a date in the college bar!

Recovery was slow. I had to learn to walk again using a Zimmer frame at first. Having lost over a stone, I was feeling weak and constantly cold. Still, the daily physio sessions were the highlight of my day as I gradually gained the strength to put one foot in front of the other.

I also got over my phobia of injections pretty quickly, becoming blasé about the 12 jabs a day in the most sensitive parts of my hand, wrist and inner elbow.

Two weeks later, the day they removed the various tubes was a joyous one. Freedom! I couldn't wait to get back to my novel – and what's more, I knew exactly what was going to happen next.

Frustratingly, I couldn't get it all down as quickly as I'd have liked – I had to learn to type again, too. But I persevered, and the end result is a happy, sunny, romantic book – the opposite of the dark, hallucinations of my fevered, drugged-up mind.

It's hard to comprehend how something that sounds so simple and everyday as a bladder infection could leave me in a coma. Thankfully I've made a full recovery but it's certainly a cautionary tale!"

By Lucy Lord

Lucy Lord's new book, A Girl Called Summer, is available as an ebook on Amazon for £1.99

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