I am back from the brink of death thanks to the heroes of the NHS who pumped me full of industrial quantities of antibiotics and other drugs when I felt unwell last week.

This time last week I was in hospital, overnight on Wednesday I was so ill that if it hadn’t been for the medical intervention there is a high chance that I could have died. My temperature was over 40C and my heart rate was over 120. My blood pressure was really low. I got IV fluids, oxygen and antibiotics injected into me.

However that’s not where the story starts, and we should start at the beginning.

Demolition Job

The old shed in the aftermath of demolition and its contents (photo: James Kemp)

On Monday afternoon my wife and I set to demolishing our old hut. This was a job that my wife has wanted to do for years. I’ve been a little less keen, maybe the fey highlander in me unconsciously understood the danger it held for me.

The hut was old, probably dating back to the late 50s or early 60s. It looked worn and it was here when we moved in. It also came fully stocked with a variety of tools, plant pots and various suspect bottles with plant food, weedkiller and other chemicals. We had some interesting conversations with council waste disposal when we first moved in. Some of the contents were banned by Geneva Conventions…

As well as that there was evidence of wildlife having used the hut as a living space. There was nesting material and droppings from a mouse or other small rodent. There were also cobwebs everywhere and loads of insect life. The whole hut had settled in the last few years and now leant back about fifteen degrees from upright. The end of the sloping roof rested against the fence. When you opened the door you swung it up and then out.

So we emptied out all the contents, sorting out what we could reuse and what needed to go to recycle. We then carefully removed the glass windows in the hope of using the glass to repair the broken window in the potting shed.

The stage after that was to take the roof off. It was a grey corrugated affair. At first I thought it was corroded corrugated iron (or wriggly tin as I find myself calling it). A closer inspection suggested that it wasn’t metal. Instead it might be asbestos concrete. A quick Google confirmed this with pictures. It also showed the safety precautions we needed to take.

I misted down the roof from both inside and out and then we very carefully took the screws out and manoeuvred each sheet off the roof avoiding breaking it. In between we kept them all damp. We also ordered heavy-duty plastic sheeting and gaffer tape to seal it up afterwards.

Once we’d got all the hazards out I then took to breaking up the hut frame with the help of a hand axe. It was fast and effective, and a little fun! I chopped through a whole corner of the hut and in no time we had it stacked neatly. We went indoors to shower and change and decided we’d come back and tidy up the next day.

Feeling unwell

My fitbit heart rate record of Tuesday 14th August 2018 – you can see my heart rate climb as I get ill. (photo: James Kemp)

On Tuesday morning I woke up feeling unwell. My first thought was I’d eaten something dodgy. Everyone else was fine, but I was the only one to touch some of the (previously opened) Bombay mix the previous evening. I put it down to that and put the BM in the food recycling bin.

My wife went to work and I took Lucy to martial arts lessons in Redhill. I’d left Alex behind to get dressed and to do a packed lunch so that we could go out when we got back.

I’d got the lesson times wrong and was half an hour late. It was OK and Lucy still got to join in. I was a bit cold and shivery feeling, despite having changed into long trousers and put my coat on as well as a long-sleeved shirt over my t-shirt. It settled down after five minutes.

When I took Lucy home again I got another round of shakes walking back to the car. It really wasn’t a long walk. I sat for a minute in the car until the extreme shiver stopped. Then I drove home. All plans of going out were cancelled. The children were happy with that, they wanted to watch movies. So we all got a sandwich and sat on the sofa. The kids staged a picture by piling me with blankets to show how unwell I was.

My kids piled me with blankets and took a picture to send to my wife! Note the teddies I was given to cuddle up to. (photo: Alex Kemp)

This is when I really started to get unwell. I don’t recall exactly when, but Alex decided that he needed to call his mum for help. When she got in I went upstairs and feel asleep. I was too unwell at this stage to realise that she was upset about it. Tracy made me shower when she put the kids to bed, and it certainly kept me awake for a bit, but didn’t appreciably change anything.

Tuesday night was confusing. I slept, and had weird dreams, and some sleepy, indistinct conversations with my wife. It passed quickly though, and we were soon both awake.

Wednesday Morning

Tracy’s first thought on seeing me was that I was so unwell that needed to go to A&E rather than seeing the GP.

So I found myself standing in shorts in my living room with my wife drawing round the red parts of my left leg using a green Sharpie! It was 0730 on Wednesday morning. Many of the awful pictures of my leg will feature that green Sharpie. Remember why it was there.

Poor Lucy got woken up to come on the adventure, while Alex got a WhatsApp message to reassure him of our whereabouts. We piled into the car and went to East Surrey Hospital.

To be continued….