NHS saved my sister’s life after she got swine flu

Carol Collinson
Carol Collinson

WHEN a Pendle woman was told by doctors her sister was going to die after contracting swine flu, Lynn Chadwick’s world came crashing down.

It was Christmas morning when the call was made to the family of Carol Collinson to tell them to get to hospital as quickly as possible. The 47-year-old mother of one had taken a turn for the worse and it was unlikely she was going to survive – just a few days after picking up the deadly bug.

But now, three months on and with Carol making a remarkable recovery, Lynn wants to praise the NHS staff who were “absolutely fantastic” in treating her younger sister.

Lynn (48) said: “The care and compassion the critical care unit showed was amazing, not just for Carol but also to us. People are so quick to call the NHS but I can’t express the dedication they show, not just the doctors and nurses, but the consultants, lab people and even the cleaners. It really is second to none and without them she wouldn’t be alive.”

It was the night before Christmas Eve when Carol felt unwell and, with husband Neil, went to her doctor who referred her to Burnley General Hospital who sent her to Blackburn Royal Hospital.

With flu-like symptoms that included a headache, aching muscles and a shortness of breath, doctors took Carol into intensive care as a precaution – but less than 24 hours later, her 20-year-old daughter Toni made the gut-wrenching call to Lynn to tell her that her mum was going to die.

Lynn said: “It was like a train had hit me. We hadn’t told our mum or dad as we hadn’t thought it was anything serious – I’d spoken to Carol the night before and joked about bringing her Christmas dinner. When we were told they thought it was swine flu we couldn’t believe it.”

“Neil and Toni were hysterical, they said she had deteriorated through the evening and had been put on a life support having the maximum dosages of everything.

“You do not realise how much people mean to you until something like this happens and you realise how much you love and need them. We could not stop crying.”

Carol, who lives in Dewhurst Street, Colne, and in Nelson owns Leeds Road handbag store Creative Gifts by Carol, had to be paralysed so her body could be given chance to recover while being wired up to 17 machines and fitted with a tracheotomy.

From one day to the next the family would visit an unconscious Carol not knowing if when they got there it would be too late.

Three weeks after she had been taken in, things were still not looking good and, to make matters worse, her stomach was not absorbing the Tamiflu drug, her bowel had stopped working and she had multi-organ failure. The only thing that was still strong was her heart.

For the six weeks she was unconscious, Lynn began keeping a diary of her thoughts so Carol would be able to piece together the lost weeks.

Lynn said: “She will read it when she’s ready but I want her to know the support throughout was absolutely amazing. We got to know the staff very well and one nurse even stayed after her shift just to sit with me – she had two children at home and didn’t need to do that but she went above and beyond for us.”

When Carol eventually came out of critical care – eight weeks after she was first admitted, she was unable to speak or move. And because of the serious muscle wastage as a result of being bed-ridden, she is now receiving physiotherapy to help her walk again. Although still in hospital, things are looking positive for Carol and she is said to be returning to her “wicked” self.

Lynn added: “It’s going to take a long time for her to totally recover but we are looking forward and not back. We can’t wait to get her home. We are so lucky that we didn’t lose her and it’s all thanks to the staff who we can’t praise enough.”

Lynn is now urging that if the swine flu bug does come around again people should get the jab. “You always think it is not going to happen to you and it just proved that it does and it is deadly.”