Thirty-Seven-Year-Old Left Who Had To Dictate Will To His Dad From Intensive Care Bed Backs Major Campaign
A Cambridge lawyer who has battled life-threatening sepsis four times is raising awareness of the dangers of the condition and the signs to look out for.
Alexander Davenport, who works for law firm Irwin Mitchell, lives with an auto-immune condition and is classed as clinically vulnerable.
At 37, Alexander has spent a lot of time in hospital. Within the past eight years alone, he’s undergone treatment for sepsis – where the body attacks itself in response to an infection – a staggering four times. After being diagnosed with sepsis for the third time and while in intensive care, Alex had to dictate a will to his Dad from his hospital bed.
The most recent instance was in July this year. Thankfully, given Alexander’s medical history and knowledge of sepsis, he was able to identify the symptoms early and received treatment before the infection progressed.
Alexander supports sepsis awareness campaign
The dad-of-one, who is a specialist workplace and military injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, is now marking World Sepsis Day. He wants to raise awareness of the dangers of the condition and how early treatment and diagnosis is key to beating it.
Expert Opinion“For someone to have sepsis once is scary, but to go through it four times and be close to death on more than one occasion, is nothing short of terrifying.
“The events of all four occasions will live with me and impact me mentally for the rest of my life as a result of what I went through; no one should have to dictate a will to their father from an ICU bed.
“By the third and fourth time, I knew the signs immediately and I’m certain that helped save me.
“Sepsis is a serious medical condition, even for a healthy individual, and the mortality rate of septic shock is 30%-40% even with treatment. Even those that make a recovery have a statistically higher risk of death that lasts up to five years after the event.
“Being aware of the symptoms and what to look out for could be the difference between life and death, so I hope that by sharing my story I can make people more savvy around sepsis and what to look out for.” Alexander Davenport
Sepsis: Alexander's story
Alexander was first diagnosed with sepsis in August 2015. Following a cellulitis infection in his arm a month prior, he developed a stiff hamstring in his left leg. Around one week later, he started experiencing redness and heat at the site of the pain as well as chills and knew it was important to seek medical attention.
He was driven to A&E by his Dad. At this point, his temperature had risen to more than 40 degrees. A large abscess was found to have formed behind his left knee, which required surgery.
Following the operation, Alexander remained in the intensive care unit for two weeks before being discharged from hospital. Due to multiple complications, he was off work for three months and was readmitted to hospital on two separate occasions during this period for separate issues caused by the previous sepsis. It took approaching two years for him to make a full physical recovery.
During a work meeting in October 2021, Alexander felt nauseous, lightheaded and unable to concentrate or to coherently express his thoughts, requiring a colleague to take over.
Later that day, he vomited and began to feel short of breath and confused. He was able to take his own blood oxygen level which was at 82% - this should be no lower than about 95% in a healthy individual.
He called an ambulance and was taken to hospital. By this point, his blood pressure was dangerously low, he had a fever and was shaking. He was put into an induced coma within 30 minutes of arriving at hospital. He underwent a series of brain, and body scans and was diagnosed with pneumonia as a result of Staph A (a bacteria we all have on our skin) and a secondary respiratory virus (hMPV)
Dad Alexander given six hours to live
Alexander was given six hours to live by the doctors, however he battled through and was brought out of the induced coma after 10 days. Alexander spent 20 days in hospital before being discharged home, throughout which he experienced vivid auditory and visual hallucinations, as a result of the infection and medication. For the next two-and-a-half months, he was cared for by his parents whilst he built up his strength and recovered.
In February 2022, Alexander woke up one morning with ankle pain. Within three hours, he identified he was again showing signs of sepsis – confusion, pain, fever, chills and nausea.
He called for an ambulance. When paramedics arrived, Alexander’s blood pressure was again dangerously low and he had gone into septic shock. He was blue lighted to hospital, where he was found to be going into organ failure.
Alexander was given fluids and taken to the intensive care unit. He remained seriously unwell for eight days and suffered from multiple serious complications before stabilising and being moved to a ward and then discharged one week later.
On 31 July this year, he noticed a pain in his shoulder. Over a period of two hours, he began to develop further symptoms he had become familiar with.
As Alexander knew he had to be seen due to his progressing symptoms, he was taken to A&E by his Mum who he had been visiting with his son.
By this point, his temperature was 39 degrees. Staff carried out blood tests and a blood gas test taken at the same time – which measures the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body – indicated sepsis and their treatment plan changed accordingly.
Alexander was immediately administered strong intravenous and oral antibiotics which caught the infection at an early enough stage that he was able to be discharged home three days later. He suffered from fatigue for around a week but has now recovered.
Expert Opinion“I’ve undergone a number of tests to establish a reason for the recurring sepsis, but no conclusion so far. My auto-immune condition makes me more susceptible to infections but despite extensive testing a primary explanation outside of this cannot be found. It is known that an episode of severe sepsis will raise the risk of future infections.
“I’m just grateful that I’m still here and thanks to my medical history and background knowledge, I know when something’s wrong. I was able to advocate for myself as a result of this and ensure that I was listened to by the doctors and 999 staff.
“Others may not be in this position, therefore it’s so important for people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of sepsis so they’re able to identify them as soon as possible. The sooner sepsis is treated the greater the chance of a full recovery.
“Sepsis is a killer and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have no major long-term effects. So many are not as fortunate as I am.
“Sepsis takes a huge physical and mental toll on an individual and even having it once is a life-changing experience for many. I will carry the physical scars from the multiple tubes and operations I have had for the rest of my life, these are a constant reminder of what I have been through. The mental aspect of it can be as hard, if not harder, to recover from for many people and these experiences have shaped who I am today and my outlook on life.
“I am forever grateful for the care I have received. Sepsis takes a toll on an individual and their family and it is a life-changing condition no matter the outcome.” Alexander Davenport
More information about sepsis
World Sepsis Day takes place on 13 September. For more information and to find out if you’re ‘sepsis savvy’ visit the website of the charity UK Sepsis Trust.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by sepsis at our dedicated sepsis claims section. Alternatively, to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.