A LOCAL man who believed he had ‘man flu’ says he owes his life to his wife – a retired A&E nurse who insisted he attend hospital, where tests confirmed he had life-threatening sepsis.

In September, 2019, Lisbellaw man Ian Gillespie (58) started to experience flu-like symptoms.

He said: “I took what I thought was ‘man flu’. I felt hot and cold, and knew I had a high temperature.

“My wife, Angela, who is a retired A&E nurse, took my temperature, and insisted that I went to the hospital.

“But I thought I knew better, and went to bed thinking I’d be all right in the morning.”

The next day, Ian started to develop pains in the lower right hand side of his abdomen. Refusing to go to A&E as Angela had suggested, Ian instead made an appointment for his GP. However, after attending, the GP told Ian to go to A&E immediately.

“At this stage the pain was really unbearable and I knew that I was ill – I’d never felt pain like it before.

“I arrived at A&E, Angela’s old department, and thankfully I was seen right away,” said Ian.

After his first set of results came back showing as quite normal, he explained that Angela spoke to the junior doctor who was seeing to her husband, and asked if more tests could be done as she felt that something was very wrong with him.

Ian continued: “He said, ‘It’s probably gall bladder [related]’, but again Angela said, ‘Nope, I know by looking at him that he is very ill’, and she demanded to speak to the duty consultant, whom she knew very well.

“The next thing I remember is being in a hospital ward surrounded by doctors and nurses, some of whom I recognised, and of course Angela was also there.

“I remember jokingly saying, ‘There’s so many of you here, you’d think I was about to die’.

“At this stage, Angela broke down and was in a really bad state – that was the first time I’d seen her like that since her mother passed away.

‘I owe her my life’

“I knew then that something was wrong. The consultant, whom I knew, told me that I was very ill and had developed sepsis, and it was only through Angela insisting other tests be carried out that it was picked up,” said Ian, adding: “I owe her my life.”

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Angela highlighted how important it is that sepsis is detected early.

She said: “Sepsis is one of those things that occurs very rapidly and the infection goes into the bloodstream.

“If it’s not got promptly, that patient could go into multi-organ failure.

“Ian sat on it for two days, and I was the nurse, and I said to him, ‘It could be a cold’, but after 24 hours Ian still felt unwell and still had a temperature.

“To me, there were warning signs there that there was something more going on.”

Highlighting some of these warning signs, and encouraging others to seek medical advice if they experience them, Angela continued: “Ian had what they call ‘rigors’, where you shake profusely.

“When you have rigors, that is the body shaking itself to reduce the temperature. That’s definitely a very typical symptom of somebody being unwell. Somebody with a flu wouldn’t present rigors.”

Noting that hospital treatment is required for sepsis, Angela said: “There is a checklist at the hospital that you go through and if you meet three of those criteria you could fall into the ‘septic’ bracket, and that’s when they have to start the treatment, within an hour.

“If you were sick for three or four days, you could be extremely septic, and you could have given your other major organs a big hit, so it’s the importance of identifying it and going down the right channels [to focus on].”

Ian was told that if his sepsis had not been detected in time, he would have experienced multiple organ failure.

“Once again, I’m so grateful to my wonderful wife – I just can’t thank her enough,” he shared.

Whilst in hospital, it was also discovered that Ian had numerous cysts on his liver.


It was one of these cysts that had burst and subsequently caused sepsis. He was initially treated in hospital with IV antibiotics for four weeks as his consultant made the decision that it was too dangerous to operate.

Ian was discharged from hospital in mid-October, 2019, but was then re-admitted in December.

It was then arranged for him to travel to King’s College, London in March to discuss the possibility of a liver transplant, but this was cancelled due to Covid-19.

It was later concluded that as the left lobe of Ian’s liver was functioning efficiently, a liver resection was more appropriate than a transplant.

Ian’s liver resection was carried out in Belfast at the end of July. Saying that he now feels better than he has ever felt, Ian told this newspaper that he was able to return to work last week after being off for a year with his illness.

“I’m walking, eating, laughing, having fun with my grandchildren, and out and about in my motorhome.

“But most importantly, I’m here to tell my story, and I give thanks to my wonderful wife, Angela, for saving me,” he added.

Noting how he is thankful for the support of his family and friends, Ian said how grateful he is for the exceptional care he received, paying glowing tribute to all the medical staff in Enniskillen, Belfast and London who had cared for him.

He added: “What a year, but it’s good to have my life back again,” said Ian.