Archie’s story: How battles were won to overcome life-threatening infection
That’s me in the middle, sporting my Oli badge with my two brothers ready for prom night. A nice photo capturing an important night in a teenagers’ life which many families have, but I think my mum will treasure this even more as recent events almost had different ideas for me.
In March I’d been complaining of back ache and mum organised for an osteopath to visit me at home. The pain got worse and that night I was taken to A&E to my local hospital on the Isle of Man but as some test results came back negative I was sent home with painkillers.
The next day my GP took my blood pressure, took one look at me and called 999 where I was taken to Intensive Care with a suspected infection. After I was sedated plans were in place to air ambulance me over to Alder Hey. I’m told medics explained to my parents how seriously ill I was and were concerned how I would manage the journey to Liverpool.
More experts were waiting for me on ICU at Alder Hey and decided that in addition to ventilation I would require support via an ECMO machine or Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for its full title!
The ECMO machine is similar to the heart-lung bypass machine and helped deliver oxygen into my blood. The team had hoped to connect me through a small insertion but my arteries are still only the size of a child’s so through the chest they went!
By now I’d developed Compartment Syndrome which was caused by muscle swelling leading to compression of vessels and nerves in my legs . I was in danger of losing my legs! They gave me a fasciotomy which is a cut to relieve tension and the muscles came out and this area had to be left open. Mum tells me it didn’t look very nice but they knew it was needed.
As I was losing so much fluid I had 18litres of blood products poured into my veins. They were chasing their tails they told me as more kept coming out so more had to be put in. Thankfully I was sedated for three weeks.
MRI scans and growing blood cultures finally confirmed their suspicions of why I was so poorly.
They checked CRP, a marker in the blood, also known as C-Reactive Protein and this measures the concentration of protein produced in my liver during an infection. In someone who is well their reading would be below four but in my case it was over 300!
Medics explained to my folks that I had a Staph infection which is a group of bacteria and they produced a rare toxin called Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL) which was targeting my lungs and muscles. The infection made my lungs collapse and fill with gunk. They showed my mum a picture of what my lungs looked like, almost all covered in micro abscesses.
To help me breath I was ventilated via a trachy (tracheostomy). To connect this they had to make a hole in my neck into my windpipe. The trachy tube made an airway so people looking after me could remove the gunk from my lungs.
When I was no longer sedated I still wasn’t fully aware of my surroundings and didn’t have any strength. My first memory was on 1st April that my friend Charlie came to visit. He must have had a shock as I’d lost two stone!
Mum said she took comfort in being told no matter how the bacteria were affecting my body, the team were always able to find a solution. She remembers consultant Frank Potter and the team being by my side for long hours at a time watching my progress.
Still on ICU it was the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse. Staff worked hard on the ward to make such a demanding place as pleasant as possible for families. They organised for us to enjoy the racing on the telly and I had my family round the bed cheering on the horses. Little did they know that because of the strong medication I was cheering on racing robots?! Even though I wasn’t fully with it I remember it being a good day.
Mum and dad said they appreciated the constant communication the ICU staff had with them and each other. They realised they had to sit back and allow staff to do their best for their boy – I am after all their youngest!
So after 37days on ICU the time finally came for me to go to the Neuro ward.
I was still taking a lot of medicine but my main treatment was a lot of physiotherapy. Members of the physio team have been fantastic. They’ve encouraged me along the way and really helped with my confidence. My family recorded me working with the physios determined to be stood up.
From day one my parents agreed for me to be involved in research. So when I was sedated and I was having blood being taken regularly, a small amount of that would have been given directly to research. The study I’m involved in is looking at any genetic reasons why people are affected differently by the same infections. Two people can have the same condition but their body reacts in various ways – it was just my luck to be the one who ends up in ICU!Another friend made along my journey has been Pat Devine, play specialist. Nothing has been too much trouble for her whatever I was up to doing she’d make sure I was doing it. She always had a smile and a story to share of course.
It’s really helped me to have lots of visitors during my time at Alder Hey. I’m grateful for people taking the time to travel to see me from across the Isle of Man and England. We have a fantastic support network and our friends who are our extended family have already taken part in fundraising events with more planned for next year.
I’ve experience both being on a ward and a private cubicle but I’m more grateful knowing that my family were well looked after in Ronald McDonald House. Being so far away from home, the onsite accommodation had allowed by parents to not have to worry about the distance from me.
I’ve now been allowed to return to the Isle of Man which is great but I know I’ve a lot of work still to do. During one of my visits home I was able to attend my school prom. Everyone enjoys their prom night but perhaps me more than others knowing things may have been different if I hadn’t had the expertise and support from Alder Hey, my family and my friends.
Almost two years on, life back home on the Isle of Man going extremely well. My strength, stamina and general wellbeing has continued to progress since the day I left Alder Hey which I feel extremely lucky for and also very grateful. I am walking with two crutches at the moment. Despite this, I am managing to do long and challenging walks in the hills and plantations of the Isle of Man. I continue to work hard in physiotherapy five times a week and I’m aiming to be able to get off of my crutches eventually and to walk independently and unaided.
Since being home I have taken up wheelchair basketball which I find is an extremely good way to meet others who may be in situations similar to mine as well as being great fun and good exercise.
In May, June and July of 2015 I sat 7 GCSE’s and one AS level which was Product Design and I’m very happy to say that I overall achieved AAABBBBBC in my GCSE’s and I, to my own amazement, managed to achieve full marks in both my AS Product Design coursework and exam.
Now in the new school year I am back full time sitting two further AS levels in Maths and Geography and my A2 level Product Design, I will be sitting the exams in the summer of 2016. As well as doing well in school I have now passed my driving test and have my very own car which is fitted with hand controls meaning I can drive without needing to use my feet.
I go back to Alder Hey roughly every six Months for check-ups with my most recent visit being to the new Alder Hey in the park. This new facility looks absolutely incredible and I know that the outstanding staff will continue their amazing work here.
Thank you Alder Hey.