Fern Britton health: ‘I nearly died’ – star on life-threatening health battle

Fern Britton on ‘bouncing back’ from ‘tough couple of years’

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Best known for presenting This Morning as the main host firstly with John Leslie then Phillip Schofield from 1999 to 2009, Britton has worked alongside a plethora of well-known presenters, firmly securing her place in British television history. Behind the scenes of her successful career, the star has faced some personal turmoil after contracting sepsis after a routine hysterectomy a few years back.

After going into hospital and successfully having a hysterectomy – a surgical procedure to remove the womb – Britton found herself in intense pain that left her unable to walk.

In the days following, and the severe pain not subsiding, doctors soon discovered that the star was suffering from E.coli and several abscesses.

Things went from bad to worse for the former Ready Steady Cook host who then contracted pneumonia, resulting in a collapsed lung.

“I was fighting for my life. I’d gone into hospital on July 13 for a routine hysterectomy (which I had needed to deal with long-standing fibroids), four days before my birthday,” Fern said, speaking to Prima magazine about her health ordeal for the first time after it had occurred.

“The procedure – which was carried out at a local private hospital – went well and I received fantastic care. But when I came home three days later, the problems began.

“I knew that something was wrong when the pain soared… four days after the op, I was [still] in a lot of pain. 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.

“When the ambulance crew arrived, I was being sick and thought, ‘Oh, I feel better now!’ So when they offered to take me to hospital, I refused. That was quite a bad decision.

“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.”

After suffering with muscle contractions in her abdomen, then husband TV chef Phil Vickery pleaded for medical help again, this time leading to Fern being taken back to hospital where she had emergency surgery.

“On the night of the procedure, I 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.’”

Thanking the NHS for practically saving her life, Fern went on to urge others to look out for the crucial signs of sepsis – a life-threatening and extreme response to an infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that sepsis occurs when an already present infection in the body triggers a chain reaction. It then causes the body to injure it’s own healthy tissues and organs.

Talking on Good Morning Britain back in 2018, Fern told more of her horrific ordeal and the key signs individuals should be looking out for. She said: “If you’re at home thinking I’m in all this pain and you’ve just had some kind of insult to your body where a bug could get in, it could be sepsis. So you must ring your doctor and ask, ‘Could this be sepsis?’

“Being sick, hot, sweaty, confused – I was in bed thinking, ‘I am going to die. I’m dying. I know I’m dying’. This is a very important symptom of sepsis.

“I then spent another 10 days in hospital, they had to operate on me again to remove all the abscesses through my stomach cavity and I nearly died,” she added.

The CDC explains plainly that a patient with sepsis might have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • High heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fever, shivering or feeling very cold
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin.

“It can be caused by something as innocent as an insect bite, so it’s time to take notice of the symptoms, which include nausea and vomiting, high temperature, confusion, not peeing very much – all of which should have been a red flag to the medical services in my case, especially as I’d had an operation just days before,” Fern continued.

“Sepsis feels like being run over by a bus and, even a year later, I’m still recovering. The infection gets into every cell of your body – my joints still ache, my muscles do, too. But I am slowly rebuilding my health and regaining my fitness.”

Those who pose at a higher risk for developing sepsis include:
Adults 65 or over

  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer or kidney disease
  • People with recent severe illness or hospitalisation
  • Sepsis survivors
  • Children younger than one year of age.

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