An outdoors enthusiast is taking on a brave sea expedition less than a year after South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust paramedics saved his life at a motorway service station.
Toby Carr, 36, was taken ill with pneumococcal meningitis whilst driving eastbound on the M4 in Wiltshire on New Year’s Day. His condition was life-threatening and he needed urgent medical treatment.
The SWASFT paramedic crew, Jan Lukas and Paul Murphy, treated him at Leigh Delamere services near Chippenham and prevented any serious long-term effects of his illness.
Toby said: “The paramedics not only saved my life, but managed to check on me in hospital afterwards. This show of care and compassion for a stranger in need was amazing and has touched me deeply. I can’t thank them enough for what they did for me. I’m so happy to be alive.”
Toby, who lives in London and works as an architect and university tutor, has gone on to make a full recovery. His ambitious challenge of paddling a sea kayak to all 31 locations of the Shipping Forecast began
on 28 May.
Toby said: “A friend said to me: ‘There’s nothing like surviving a near-death experience to make you feel alive.’ I have a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm for life. I want to make the most of it, pushing myself, and having experiences I never thought possible.”
Toby was born with a rare genetic condition. He has survived multiple health complications, including cancer, and has endured various family bereavements. He has always strived to lead an active life.
At the time of the emergency Toby had an impaired immune system following a bone marrow transplant. But the actual cause of the infection remains unclear.
Toby began to feel ill whilst travelling back from visiting friends in the Wye Valley. He experienced sickness and headaches at the wheel, but managed to reach the service station. Then his breathing slowed down, and he struggled to stay awake.
A friend dialled 999 to alert the SWASFT Control Hub who organised emergency help for him. The crew reached the barely conscious Toby and assessed his condition.
Paramedic Jan said: “We were very concerned that Mr Carr had meningitis. That was practically the worst case scenario for him.”
They inserted a small tube into one of Toby’s veins and administered antibiotics. Then they took him by ambulance to the Great Western Hospital in Swindon where he remained for almost two weeks.
Pneumococcal meningitis is a serious infectious disease that causes inflammation of the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meninges). It can cause life-threatening septicemia and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves.
There are around 200 reported cases of pneumococcal meningitis each year in the UK. Around a quarter of patients have severe and disabling after-effects and one in six cases result in death. But most people make a good recovery. The condition requires rapid admission to hospital and urgent treatment with antibiotics.
Jan said: “We would advise people to be aware of the symptoms including headaches, photophobia (light sensitivity), vomiting, a non-fading rash, and altered consciousness. There is a particular risk to children and people with compromised immunity as meningitis is very infectious.”
You can follow his adventure and track his location on his Twitter @kayakforecast
Photos: Michal Madera, sixknots.net