Belfast Telegraph

Former RUC man who lost both legs, eight fingers and part of nose to deadly infection beats the odds to become a father

54-year-old speaks out about septicaemia ordeal to help raise awareness

By Amy Murphy

A former RUC officer who lost both legs, eight fingers and parts of his nose after contracting septicaemia has spoken about his ordeal in the hope it might prevent others from suffering.

Dean Smahon was left with a 10% chance of survival after he fell ill in October 2010 and hospital staff missed opportunities to treat his sepsis in time.

But the 54-year-old pulled through and is now looking forward to becoming a father for the first time.

Mr Smahon, who worked as a police officer in Northern Ireland before moving to Leeds, West Yorkshire, is telling his story as part of Sepsis Awareness Month.

He became ill six years ago and was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary. He was placed in an induced coma after his flu-like symptoms of pain in his hip, fever and shakes worsened and his body fell into septic shock. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have since admitted that staff missed opportunities to treat Mr Smahon's infection and his body began shutting down its extremities in a bid to protect his vital organs.

He was released from hospital three months later but needed 30 operations over two years, which included amputations to his legs, hand, fingers, parts of his nose and right ear, and a hip replacement. He also suffered from depression as he struggled to adapt.

Mr Smahon, who had only been in a relationship with his wife Kirsty for seven weeks before falling ill, said: "I was active, I liked to keep fit, I had pride in how I looked, I'd met a girl I really liked and all of a sudden I had to cope with losing my legs, hand and bits of my face.

"I'd lost my dignity and self-worth. Kirsty left her teaching job to care for me. It was a very dark period and felt as though life wasn't worth living."

He added: "I hope that my story will help prevent others suffering the way I have."

In 2015, lawyers secured Mr Smahon an interim payment, which allowed him to buy better prosthetics, an adapted car, rent a bungalow, purchase home gym equipment and obtain rehabilitation therapy.

They are now trying to secure an award for damages which will provide him with appropriate prosthetics so he can live as independently as possible, and have suitable accommodation, rehabilitation and the care he requires for the rest of his life.

Mr Smahon, who represented Northern Ireland in javelin as a teenager, married 36-year-old Kirsty three years ago, using prosthetics to walk down the aisle.

The couple are expecting their first child in February after IVF treatment - something the father-to-be said he never dreamed they would be able to do.

Sarah Coles, a medical negligence specialist with law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "Not diagnosing and treating Dean's infection that led to sepsis early enough changed his life forever and, although nothing can turn back the clock, the award of damages he will receive means he will be able to afford suitable and different prosthetics throughout his life and the ongoing rehabilitation he will need as his remaining joints become over-used, so he can be as active as possible and help in the bringing up of his new baby."

Leeds Teaching Hospitals said the trust was implementing an improvement programme for the treatment and care of people with sepsis.

Suzanne Hinchliffe, chief nurse and deputy chief executive at the trust, said: "We regret that Mr Smahon did not receive the prompt treatment for his infection that he had the right to expect, and we reiterate our sincere apologies to him and his wife for these failings."

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