A mum who was left paralysed after contracting an extremely rare flu virus says she hopes to get her life back to normal in the coming months.
Becky Harris, 41, was in an induced coma at Chesterfield Royal Hospital for two weeks when her organs failed suddenly after picking up the Type A flu virus, of which swine flu and bird flu are strands.
Doctors told her family she would not survive, but against all the odds she did - although the virus initially left her with pneumonia, septicaemia, and paralysed to the extent that she could only move her eyes.
After five months in hospital, including eight weeks in the Intensive Therapy Unit, partner Gary Day gave up his job as press setter to become Becky’s full time carer at their home in Old Whittington, Chesterfield, as well as looking after their son Luke, now three.
Becky receives weekly physiotherapy both at home and in hospital and now has some movement - so much so that last week she was able to feed herself a piece of toast for the first time in nearly a year.
“It has been horrific,” said Becky, who previously worked as a valuation manager for an estate agent.
“I have not been able to do anything for myself since it happened. I was an active person and this has turned our lives upside down, but we just want to get back to normality.”
Gary initially called 999 last February after Becky complained of feeling unwell, but initial tests came back all clear.
Two days later she was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit where she suffered a cardiac arrest and multiple organ failure.
“My organs basically packed up,” Becky said. “If I had stayed at home that night I would be dead, but I knew something wasn’t right.”
The following day Gary got a call while travelling back from the hospital to say that his wife was not expected to live through the next 24 hours.
“It was the most horrible drive of my life,” said Gary. “Hearing that they were expecting her not to make it was the worst thing anybody could tell you.”
Doctors were unable to determine exactly what kind of flu Becky contracted, and cannot say for sure how full a recovery she will make.
She sleeps downstairs after the couple decided that having Gary carry her upstairs every night was “an accident waiting to happen,” and has asked social services for a stairlift for the couple.
“They say it’s because my condition is not permanent, but if and when I can walk again, I still might not be able to get up and downstairs,” said Becky.
“Being able to go upstairs safely would mean I’m not sleeping in the dining room and would give us some normality, which is all we want.”
Becky also paid tribute to the doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and physios who have helped her.
“I want to say thank you to everybody who helped save my life at Chesterfield Royal and those who have helped me in my recovery so far. Those people have been truly fantastic, and so has Gary,” she said.
“I’ve had my dark days, for sure, but I’m taking it one thing at a time and hopefully one day I’ll be able to stand on my own two feet without help and have some independence back.”
A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said: ““We have been working closely with the family but they were assessed in November and told us the were happy with their independence and were coping.
“We were not aware of any new issues but we are more then happy for them to contact us and we will carry out an assessment.”