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'Don't let others go through what I did when I nearly died'

Barbara Bell
Barbara Bell

Doncaster health campaigner Barbara Bell nearly died three years ago - and now she wants to make sure others do not go through the same.

Barbara's suffered the deadly condition sepsis after being admitted to Doncaster Royal Infirmary after a complication with an illness called diverticulitis, which she has suffered since 1997.

It involves small pouches forming in the lining of the gut wall. Food can get stuck in them, and then get infected.

For Branton resident Barbara, one of these burst in 2015. The infection affected the rest of her body, causing sepsis, a type of blood poisoning which can lead to the body's organs shutting down and death.

Doctors at Doncaster Royal Infirmary sprang into action and performed emergency surgery which saved her life.

Now she is trying to raise awareness of the condition with GPs, and addressed them at a meeting this month. She wants to see the disease managed better and raise awareness.

The condition also left her having to use a stoma bag for a period of time - a bag which collects the body's waste and is worn outside the body - and now hopes to set up a support group for others.

Ms Bell, aged 72, said: "I want to make sure that doctors know it is not just old people who suffer diverticulitis."

Barbara believes she was 52 when she first started to suffer the condition, and blames using too many antibiotics.

She took large amounts of the drug because of a series operations, mostly relating to a dislocated hip, which she was born with. Her first op was aged 11, and she had many more until 1992.

She said: "My sepsis started on the Friday, when I started being sick. The nurse on the Monday morning was astute enough to realise I had sepsis . I was rushed to the recovery room and into theatre.

"It was an emergency - my bowel had come apart. I had an emergency operation to fix it. I wasn't ready to die, and that was what was going through my mind."

Barbara had to use a stoma bag after the operation in 2015, although later surgery reversed that.

But she thinks there needs to be more support for those who use the bags, and is appealing for people who want to help her to set up a support group.

She said: "When I came out I was given three pamphlets and got on with treating myself. But there must be people out there who don't know how to deal with it, and the problems that are caused by wearing a bag.

"I have heard about someone in Doncaster who has not left the house for 10 years because of the way they feel about their bag. People don't know about the condition, and they need to know where to turn to for help.

"People have to use a disabled toilet, but no one would know they were disabled because they have no limp. I want to help people realise they can still have a good life after a stoma bag, and still look attractive."

Log onto https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diverticular-disease-and-diverticulitis/ for more information about diverticulitis. Log onto www.colostomyuk.org for information about stoma bags.

Anyone interested in helping set up a Doncaster support group can email Barbara on bellybjb@gmail.com