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World Antimicrobial Awareness Week: John’s story

Ahead of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, read John's story of how an infection which was resistant to antibiotics changed his life.

A pill on a white background with the words 'keep antibiotics working'

My name is John, and I have just had my 75th birthday. This last year has been a traumatic one medically, which has completely changed my life and the way I live as the result of an infection which is antibiotic resistant.

I was born and raised in a mining village and I worked down the coal mine for two years. I then got an office job, took exams and studied at university. While there I shared a house with four pharmacy students. The topic of antibiotic overuse came up on many occasions. Interesting that this is still a topic more than 50 years later.

I then worked in both in the UK and abroad and I married during this time.

Until recent years I was blessed with good health and had no need of antibiotics, although one of the pharmacists from student days who is still a close friend continued to warn of the dangers of overuse. I have led an active life, playing cricket and squash in my younger days and subsequently tennis and later golf which I played until I became ill in the summer of 2020.

Last year I have had lung cancer and a repair to an aorta stent. Although both operations were successful, I came home with a urine infection. Within a week of discharge, it had developed into urosepsis and I was rushed back into hospital. After antibiotic treatment in hospital, I was discharged with a tablet antibiotic. This lasted only a very short time until another sepsis attack had me back in hospital.

I then had various antibiotic treatments and stays in hospital and was eventually discharged to the Outpatient Parenteral Antibiotic Therapy (OPAT) team on a pump system (piperacillin plus tazobactam), at a local hospital. By this time, I had been told that the infection had lodged in the aortic stent and would be difficult to treat but the consultants were hopeful that these antibiotics would work. This treatment was successful for nine weeks when another sepsis attack had me back in hospital again.

This was my longest stay and various antibiotics were tried. I was also referred to another hospital for consideration of removing the stents. The chances of surviving this operation were considered to be less than 50 per cent and there was no guarantee that the infection would be completely removed, so it was concluded that the operation was not viable. Eventually I was again discharged to the OPAT team, on a combination of two antibiotics.

To date this has proved successful, although given my past experiences there is always the concern that the infection will break through again. Living with that concern is stressful and we hope every day that it will continue to be successful. We continue to hope that a solution to eradicate the infection will be found and a breakthrough antibiotic could solve this.

Living with this infection has affected my life in many ways, not least of which was the 62 days I spent in hospital earlier this year and the multiple trips to hospital in an ambulance with blue lights. I remain very tired and do not have the energy or strength to do things I could do before this. I can no longer play golf and I cannot walk very far. I cannot have the hip replacement operation that was scheduled, and I cannot travel overseas and have had to sell our villa in Spain. On a daily basis I have to plan where I will be so that I am able to have my treatment at the set times. This then constrains my daily outings and makes holidays and day trips difficult. My wife must organise her life so that she is available to carry out the daily treatments and attend the assessments at the hospital.

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You can find out more about antimicrobial resistance on the World Health Organisation website.

Thursday 18 November to Wednesday 24 November is World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. Help us raise awareness by sharing the messages we will be putting out on our Facebook and Twitter pages with your friends and family.