A very CLOSE CALL
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