Everyday heroes save David from 'death's door'
DAVID Harris almost died because he didn't want to "bother" staff at the Ipswich Hospital emergency department.
On May 31, David was out shopping with his wife, Gail, when he suddenly felt they symptoms of a sore throat.
As a former ambulance officer, he didn't think much of it and assumed he was coming down with a mild virus.
By that evening, the father of five started to feel seriously ill.
As the night wore on, he knew a hospital trip was inevitable, but the ever-considerate David wanted to wait until daytime, rather than bothering night staff.
At 5.30am the call was made for an ambulance.
"By 7.30am I was knocking on death's door," David said.
"I don't remember a thing. The next thing I knew it was the following Tuesday."
David had been placed into a coma.
By the time he arrived at the hospital his voice box was so swollen from a rare type of meningococcal infection that doctors struggled to intubate him.
"I was breathing through a gap so small you couldn't pass a sewing needle through it," he said.
"It all just came on so quickly.
"There's no doubt the doctors who treated me saved my life."
Brendan Perry was one of those doctors.
He said the emergency staff immediately called for a specialist and Dr Perry used a camera, sent down through David's nose, to see what was going on.
"You could immediately see there was a significant amount of swelling all around his airway that had been rapidly progressing," Dr Perry said.
"We've seen similar patients previously with airway swelling but his was quite an acute onset and quite severe swelling around the airway.
"That's why the decision to go straight into theatre was taken.
"He needed urgent intubation.
"If he didn't have access to medical care his airway would have been compromised and he probably wouldn't have survived."
David was in an induced coma for five days.
For his family, the experience was terrifying but they knew he was in good hands.
"It was pretty scary seeing him with that great big garden hose (the breathing tube) down his mouth and no response from him at all," wife Gail said.
"The day they started taking out of the coma and his eyes started flickering... then all the tears came.
"It was pretty emotional."
David was so thankful to the doctors; Julia Kelly, Ian Brandon, Brendan Perry and Akmez Latona, that he wrote a letter of thanks.
That letter made it all the way to the health minister's office who organised for David to meet Health Minister Cameron Dick at the Ipswich Hospital yesterday.
Mr Dick said it was uplifting to meet someone he thinks of as an 'every day hero'.
"For me that's the highlight of my job; meeting people that I've described as heroes... at both ends of the stethoscope," Mr Dick said.
"That's the patients who face enormous health challenges and staff who help them through that.
"In this case we had a man fighting for his life and staff doing everything possible to help him.
"I'm lifted up by the miraculous work our staff do every day."
This year there have been just 31 confirmed cases of meningococcal infection across Queensland. Three of those were in the West Moreton area.
Meningococcal disease is a severe but uncommon infection that occurs when meningococcal bacteria invade the body from the throat or nose.