Ex-RUC man’s deadly septicaemia battle

Dean Smahon and his wife Kirsty. He lost both legs, eight fingers and part of his nose only seven weeks after meeting her.
Dean Smahon and his wife Kirsty. He lost both legs, eight fingers and part of his nose only seven weeks after meeting her.

A Londonderry man who lost both legs, eight fingers and parts of his nose after contracting septicaemia has spoken about his ordeal in the hope it might prevent others from suffering.

Dean Smahon was left with a 10% chance of survival after he fell ill in October 2010 and hospital staff missed opportunities to treat his sepsis in time.

But the 54-year-old pulled through and is now looking forward to becoming a father for the first time.

Mr Smahon, who is from Londonderry and served in the RUC from 1979-2001, is telling his story as part of Sepsis Awareness Month.

He grew up in the Cityside and Waterside parts of the city and represented Northern Ireland in the javelin from age 14 to 36 - at one time being Irish schoolboys champion.

Competing regularly in Great Britain, he eventually moved there, working as a DJ, setting up his own company.

But he needed to call on all his years of fitness when he fell ill six years ago and was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary. He was placed in an induced coma after his flu-like symptoms of pain in his hip, fever and shakes worsened and his body fell into septic shock.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have since admitted that staff missed opportunities to treat Mr Smahon’s infection and his body began shutting down its extremities in a bid to protect his vital organs.

He was released from hospital three months later but needed 30 operations over two years, which included amputations to his legs, hand, fingers, parts of his nose and right ear, and a hip replacement. He also suffered from depression as he struggled to adapt.

Mr Smahon, who had only been in a relationship with his wife Kirsty for seven weeks before falling ill, said: “I was active, I liked to keep fit, I had pride in how I looked, I’d met a girl I really liked and all of a sudden I had to cope with losing my legs, hand and bits of my face.

“I’d lost my dignity and self-worth. Kirsty left her teaching job to care for me. It was a very dark period and felt as though life wasn’t worth living.”

He added: “I hope that my story will help prevent others suffering the way I have.”

In 2015, lawyers secured Mr Smahon an interim payment, which allowed him to buy better prosthetics, an adapted car, rent a bungalow, purchase home gym equipment and obtain rehabilitation therapy.

They are now trying to secure an award for damages which will provide him with appropriate prosthetics so he can live as independently as possible, and have suitable accommodation, rehabilitation and the care he requires for the rest of his life.

He married 36-year-old Kirsty three years ago, using prosthetics to walk down the aisle.

The couple are expecting their first child in February after IVF treatment - something the father-to-be said he never dreamed they would be able to do.