A sur­prise visit from a friend ended up sav­ing my life


‘I was too weak to know what was go­ing on’

Jeane Trend-Hill, 50, Lon­don

Shim­my­ing my way onto the dance floor, I reached into my hand­bag and dug out a packet of fags. ‘Give us one,’ my friend Cather­ine asked, grin­ning cheek­ily.

At 18, we’d re­cently started go­ing out to bars and night­clubs.

It was 1986, and back then, ev­ery­one I knew smoked cig­a­rettes reg­u­larly.

My friends and I would treat our­selves to colour­ful cig­a­rettes with fancy gold fil­ters be­fore hit­ting the pub.

Like most peo­ple, I knew smok­ing cig­a­rettes wasn’t ex­actly healthy. But danc­ing away to all the hits, I didn’t have a care in the world.

In those early days, I’d smoke around 10 cigs on a night out and didn’t re­ally bother dur­ing the week. But be­fore long I was hav­ing sneaky ones af­ter a stress­ful day at work.

Then, I started smok­ing cig­gies more and more.

By the time I was in my early

twen­ties, I was smok­ing around 15 cig­a­rettes a day. I never at­tempted to quit. But I knew smok­ing cig­a­rettes was hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on my health.

I strug­gled to walk long dis­tances and got out of breath walk­ing up the stairs. But noth­ing stopped me.

Cig­a­rettes were some­thing I en­joyed. I didn’t see a rea­son to stop smok­ing them.

But then, in Novem­ber 2009, af­ter more than 30 years as a ded­i­cated smoker, I came down with a chest in­fec­tion.

I could hear my­self wheez­ing and my chest felt tight.

My GP pre­scribed an­tibi­otics for me, but af­ter a few days I didn’t feel any bet­ter.

Ly­ing on the sofa cov­ered in a du­vet, I felt like death warmed up. It didn’t help that I lived on my own.

But luck­ily, Cather­ine popped round to check on me. ‘You don’t look well at all,’ she gasped when I opened the door.

Look­ing in the mir­ror, I re­alised Cather­ine was right – my lips were blue, and I felt com­pletely out of it. ‘I’m call­ing an am­bu­lance,’ Cather­ine said sud­denly.

I was too weak to know what was go­ing on.

Next thing I knew, an am­bu­lance and para­medic car were pulling up out­side my house. Mean­while, I felt my­self drift­ing in and out of con­scious­ness.

When I woke up, I re­alised I was ly­ing in a bed on a hospi­tal ward.

‘Where am I?’ I asked a nurse grog­gily.

‘You’re in Basil­don Univer­sity Hospi­tal,’ she told me gen­tly.

I spent the next four drowsy days in and out of sleep.

I didn’t know what was hap­pen­ing to me. I just knew I was se­ri­ously ill.

On the fourth day, I woke up and saw Cather­ine sit­ting by my side. She looked wor­ried sick.

‘Thank God you’re awake,’ she said, grip­ping my hand.

Sit­ting up, I lis­tened in shock as Cather­ine ex­plained I’d been di­ag­nosed with pneu­mo­nia and ad­vanced sep­ti­caemia

– a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous bac­te­rial blood in­fec­tion.

‘They told me to ex­pect the worst,’ Cather­ine said through tears.

‘What?’ I gasped, try­ing to take it in.

I couldn’t be­lieve what I was hear­ing. Sure, I knew I was ill, but it took a while for me to re­alise just how se­ri­ous it was.

My or­gans had started shut­ting down. I was lucky to be alive.

Doc­tors couldn’t iden­tify the virus, so they couldn’t de­ter­mine how I had be­come so poorly. But deep down, I knew my cig­a­rette smok­ing habit wouldn’t have helped.

Wiped out on the hospi­tal ward, all I wanted was to feel bet­ter.

Su­per-strength an­tibi­otics were be­ing pumped into me through a drip, and I was on oxygen to help me breathe.

Ly­ing there, I thought about all the changes I had to make in my lifestyle to make sure I never got this ill again.

I knew quit­ting cig­a­rettes had to be at the top of my list.

With every day that passed, the sever­ity of what had hap­pened haunted me. What if Cather­ine had never called the am­bu­lance? Would I have sur­vived?

Af­ter 16 days in hospi­tal, I was fi­nally dis­charged.

But it took a long time for me

to feel nor­mal again.

For months I felt weak, as my body fought to re­cover from the trauma of hav­ing sep­sis.

My vow to quit smok­ing fags didn’t take much hard work. It was like my body had in­stinc­tively de­cided to quit cig­gies of its own ac­cord.

If I walked past some­body smok­ing cig­a­rettes in the street I’d re­coil. The smell of an ash­tray knocked me side­ways.

Af­ter more than 30 years of smok­ing fags, it was like a light had been turned on.

Un­be­liev­ably, I never once craved a cig­a­rette.

This year I will cel­e­brate 10 years as a non-smoker, and I feel all the bet­ter for it.

My breath­ing has im­proved, I’m so much fit­ter, too. I love tak­ing long walks.

I never thought I’d quit smok­ing. Hands up, I en­joyed it too much. But my body made the de­ci­sion for me.

My ill­ness made me re­alise just how im­por­tant it is to be healthy.

We only get one body.

I’m de­ter­mined to look af­ter mine.

Jeane’s doc­tors ex­pected the worst

I knew I had to ditch the fags to heal

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