Metamizole survivor's story
Expat went into septic shock after being prescribed controversial painkiller
PATRICK Clancy went into septic shock after being prescribed the controversial painkiller Metamizole and spent six weeks in an induced coma on life support.
He was given the analgesic following a shoulder operation but after developing side effects was rushed into intensive care at Dénia Hospital after his white blood cell count plummeted and he developed sepsis.
The 75-year-old was admitted on October 5 last year and finally released from the Ferris Hospital at Fontilles on December 22 after begging to be allowed to spend Christmas with his wife Julie and family – he actually remembers nothing of the festive celebration and admitted: “I am lucky to be alive.”
Patrick and Julie, both volunteers with Cancer Care Jávea, agreed to tell their story for the first time this week as investigations into Metamizole and its risks when taken by north Europeans continues; they were both quick to praise the medical teams for their dedication.
“The care was beyond excellent. I was on life support for six weeks and they would not give up,” said Patrick.
“I went up to Fontilles for three weeks; the physiotherapy and rehabilitation there was absolutely fantastic.”
Weakened by his time in a morphine-induced coma, he had to learn to walk and feed him- self again and suffered terrible muscle wastage. “After 10 days I had had enough, I managed to stand up and helped by a rail started to walk...some of the medical staff saw me and started cheering; they thought it was fantastic.”
AEMPS, the Agencia Espanola de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios, is examining the effects of the painkiller – commonly known as Nolotil in Spain – after a private investigation by Marina Alta medical translator Cristina Garcia del Campo.
AEMPS has promised to take action to protect ‘at risk’ groups, including people of Anglo Saxon and Scandinavian heritage, because of the increased danger of developing agranulcytosis; a dangerous drop in white blood cells which can lead to sepsis.
Patrick said: “The way I look at it, it (Metamizole) is banned in over 30 countries; Spain hasn’t done it yet but they are looking into it.”
Patrick underwent surgery to correct a problem with his left shoulder in September last year. He started taking Metamizole wanted to stop but when the pain returned decided to be ' a good boy' and continued with the tablets.
However, he started feeling unwell, suffering profuse sweating despite being cold and unable to pass urine for two days – and having no inclination to do so. “Apparently all are symptoms of sepsis.”
Julie took Patrick for a hospital appointment and told doctors, “I don’t think my husband is very well,”
He spent 10 hours in an observation room before being taken to an isolation suite, and finally into intensive care. Patrick was put into an induced coma as his organs – initially his kidneys - started 'to shut down'.
“They started to try and find the right type of antibiotic; two didn’t work and they said if the last one didn’t work that I was a goner...it started to work,” said Patrick.
“Nolotil is a bit like AIDS and takes away the whole immune system, it allows every other bug in.”
Julie remembered Patrick developing a hospital-based infection and 'so many scans' and being told it was lucky her husband’s 'heart was very strong'.
There was a further scare when doctors attempted to bring Patrick round. Julie said: “They said he might have brain damage because he wouldn’t wake up when they thought he should.”
Patrick said he came round five days later than expected. “Ping! My eyes opened; I didn’t know where I was because I was so out of it; all the time I had horrific vivid nightmares.”
Julie said at times as Patrick struggled he needed to be restrained to prevent him falling out if bed. “After being unconscious for six weeks, when he came round he couldn’t move; he lost all his muscles; he couldn’t feed himself and had to learn how to walk again.”
Almost a year later, Patrick has found he has developed arthritis, suffers pins and needles in three toes of both feet and in his lower left arm, the side of the operation. Strangely, his brain now enables him to read and write backwards and he has to think twice about simple questions, such as which are left and right.
“It is life changing; if I sit for too long my joints lock, especially my hips and I feel cold all the time; perhaps it has just brought on old age so much quicker,” he said.
“It knocks 10 tons out of you; it was not just once I could have died but the whole of those six weeks. I am told it was lucky I had a strong constitution.”