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John booked the flight to Belfast with intentions of burying his grandmother’s ashes. His mother, Sandra and his fiancée, Kelly, accompanied him. The trip was supposed to be for two weeks, September 24th to October 8th. They were staying with Thomas, John’s younger brother, who lives in Belfast. John’s grandmother, Elizabeth McClean was to be buried on Wednesday, September 29th, a day shared by John’s 34th birthday. John hadn’t felt well during the service, he complained of a sore throat and thought that he might have caught the flu. When the service finished the family members that attended went to Thomas’ house for dinner. After eating, John had felt even worse, so he thought to go lay down.

John was in bed for 6 hours, his relatives went up to see if he was okay. They found John with a high fever. His relatives called a doctor. When the doctor came and seen John, the doctor said John had a bad chest infection and sent an ambulance right away. He was admitted into the Mater Hospital early Thursday morning. Just hours after he was admitted, John went into septic shock and multi-organ dysfunction. This was his last memory.

The doctors resuscitated John and he was sent into ICU (Intensive Care Unit) immediately. They diagnosed him with a disease called pneumococcal pneumonia*. This is an infection caused by streptococcus; it infects the upper respiratory tracts and can spread to the blood, lungs, middle ear, or nervous system. John had also contracted septicemia* (blood poisoning). This is a serious, rapidly progressive, life-threatening infection that may arise secondary to localized infections of the respiratory tract. John had deteriorated so quickly, he was on life support. His organs weren’t functioning on their own. He was covered head to toe in deep purple lesions due to the septicemia. The doctors didn’t think he would have lived through the night.

When John was six his spleen had ruptured due to an injury and he had to have it removed, because this organ is the one that cleanses the body, John didn’t have the proper antibodies to combat the disease. It was a miracle in itself that John had went 28 years without a spleen and didn’t catch this or any other disease sooner.

The rest of John’s family in Canada had woken up to the terrible phone call about what had happened. John’s sister, Sandra and father booked the next flight out to Belfast. Thinking they were going for a funeral, they left on Friday, October 1st. Luckily, when the two arrived at the Mater, John was still alive, but without improvement. The immediate family members were told, by a consultant, that it was a miracle John has lived this long and he has less that 5% chance of survival. The majority of people in John’s position dies within the first 48 hours, others die within the next 14 days and only 23% of people actually survive.

Over a few days, John was not making much improvements, but he was hanging on. This gave family and friends the hope they needed and any little slight improvement meant the world to them. Realistically however, John was still critical and in an extremely high death rate zone. As everyone was in disbelief, this was only the beginning of it. John was treated with clear fluid resuscitation*; this is a process when fluids are being returned following a dramatic loss. This caused John to start swelling up all over; at this point he was unrecognizable as John McCormick.

John’s mother and Kelly decided that they weren’t coming back on the 8th, neither was his father. John’s sister, Sandra, could only stay for the week. When she returned on the 8th of October, John’s youngest sister, Christina, boarded the plane to go to Belfast. By this time, John was in ICU for a solid week; he was still under sedation, heavily medicated and machines were still running his organs. The only improvements were the swelling went down slightly and some of the lesions were clearing up. Although John doesn’t know what was going on, this was the most stressful time for everyone. Nurses were monitoring him 24/7 and the waiting room became a second home to John’s family members.

A couple days after Christina arrived in Belfast is when John started showing some real improvements. The swelling went down everywhere but his arms and legs, his face and chest were almost clear of the lesions and as nice as it was to see John’s improvements, he was still hooked up to life support for his lungs and dialysis for his kidneys. Liquid nutrients and proteins were being fed to him though a tube in his nose and he was attached to machines that injected him with time-released antibiotics. The doctors had reduced the amount of sedative that they were giving John. He did wake up a few times, he heard the nurses and his relatives, but he couldn’t talk for the tube in his mouth. Because John was now responsive and his lungs had started to work on a minimal level, they tried him on an oxygen mask. He talked very little and it was hard to understand him. However, he made it quite clear that he was in pain and was quite confused.

For about two, maybe more days, because of all the medication and sleep deprivation John started having hallucinations. He didn’t understand where he was, why, or even how he got there. The doctors put him back under sedation and back on the life support. The doctors had said that John’s blood wasn’t circulating thoroughly; he had blood clots in and/or around his feet. His toes were completely black and were basically dead, the doctors had said, amputation was the only option they could give as gangrene* had set in. They did say they were going to amputate as low as they could. Thursday, October 14th was the day of John’s operation; the family couldn’t see him to the next day.

As the family was hoping the amputation would be above the ankles, it was not. John had to have a bilateral below the knee amputation*. This is where both of the legs are removed from below the knee. The doctors predicted that once that was done, his blood pressure and heart rate would stabilize and they were right, but that didn’t mean anything as his blood pressure stayed in a normal high zone (130/85 - 140/90) and his heart rate was still high (110 - 120 bpm). The point is, he was stabilizing. When John woke up after the operation, the family explained to him what had happened. He seemed to understand and was not in a hallucinogenic state any longer. Gradually, day-by-day, the doctors had taken him off certain medications and tried him with other ones. Once his blood pressure and heart rate was completely stable, he was taken off of the life support machine.

John continued to progress, he had movement in his right arm; he could look around and converse with people. The staff at the Mater Hospital had dubbed John the Miracle Man, as it was an absolute miracle that he has come this far. By the end of Christina’s stay, around the 20th or so, John was becoming to sound like his old self again. Still in allot of pain and allot confusion, John was dealing with this better than anyone expected. He was only on the dialysis, but the doctor did say that the kidneys would be the last organs to kick in.

On October 23rd, Christina and John’s father left to go back to Canada and on November 2nd John was moved to the City Hospital to be treated for his kidneys. John is still there to this day he is in CCU (Critical Care Unit). Despite the use of his right arm, his left arm has minimal movement. At the Mater, he had to have surgery to remove a layer of skin, purely superficial, he can wiggle his fingers and feels a tingling sensation, but he is at a risk of losing it. The doctors thought John might have had blood clots, but that isn’t the case, so they will have to do more tests to figure out why his left arm isn’t improving like his right arm. John will need skin graphs done on his legs as they aren’t healing properly, but when all is said and done, John will be released from the City Hospital. He will then attend Musgrave Park Hospital on a daily basis for his prosthesis*.

John has come a long way and everyone is extremely pleased with his recovery, granted he is not near a full recovery. It could be between two and five years before he is completely rehabilitated; John has only over come a few bridges, there are still several to go. He is currently receiving counselling and physiotherapy to help him through this. John has been vaccinated for meningitis, influenza, and pneumococcal pneumonia and he will have to be vaccinated against these diseases every 1-5 year, depending on the vaccination. That is all the information about John to date, it is hard to predict what else will happen, but it will be a long time before he is back in Canada.

The McCormick Family


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