Mum’s huge wake-up call after common condition left her hours from painful death

A mum has shared her "massive wake-up call" after a common lung condition almost killed her.

Rebecca Thorpe, 28, suffers from asthma but it never occurred to her how serious it could be until she woke up one morning barely able to breathe. 

As her condition rapidly deteriorated during that frightening day, she says talking was "almost impossible" and she didn't have the energy to walk.

She was in such a panic she couldn't even remember how to spell her boyfriend's name.

Rebecca was blue-lighted to hospital where her temperature climbed to 40.8C, putting her at risk of dangerous seizures, she says.

And as her body failed to respond to treatment, she feared she was hours away from not making it.

But the thought of not seeing her son Louie, two, petrified her and was simply not an option, she said.

He gave her the strength, determination and positivity to keep fighting and six days later she pulled through and was able to leave hospital.

The experience was a real wake up call for Rebecca, who said it spurred her and boyfriend John Thorpe, 30, onto booking their wedding just days after.

They got married six months later and Rebecca has now bravely spoken to Mirror Online about what happened to her to raise awareness of how serious asthma can be.

Her husband is running the London Marathon to raise money for Asthma UK.

Rebecca, from Essex, said: "My asthma is normally mild but one morning I woke up wheezy and breathless. I couldn’t get my breath back and I had to call for an ambulance.

"The look in John’s eyes when he thought I was going to die will haunt me for the rest of my life.

"I was so close to death and worried I’d never see my son again.

"The thought of leaving him without a mum made me fight harder and eventually I pulled through.

"After that John and I learned that life can take a dramatic turn in a blink of an eye, so we started planning our wedding and we were married six months later."

Rebecca says she has always suffered from asthma, and was diagnosed at the age of 13.

Her condition has meant a few hospital trips over the years, but she says it was never serious until her terrifying experience in December 2017.

She says she's always been able to manage it, or when she's been put on nebulisers or antibiotics in the past it has always been okay.

But her close call 'opened her eyes to how quickly it can turn'.

Rebecca had woken up that frightening morning feeling wheezy but initially thought she would be fine.

However it soon became clear she needed help.

"As the day went on, my wheeziness got worse and worse and I couldn't control it," she said.

"I thought I wouldn't be able to get up and walk to Louie in his cot. That's when I realised I couldn't do this on my own."

John had already left for work in London, so a panicked Rebecca phoned for an ambulance.

"Before paramedics got there I was really scared because I couldn't control my own breathing and no one was there to look after Louie," she said.

But when the ambulance arrived, Rebecca knew she was in safe hands.

"Paramedics got Louie out of his cot and took me to hospital," she said.

"It was such an effort to breathe. Every breath felt like a struggle. I didn't have the energy.

"Panic came over me because I thought 'I can't control this and it's getting worse'.

"The pressure on my chest was really tight, it was like a weight on my chest.

"When paramedics asked me how to spell my partner's name I couldn't think how to spell it.

"I was so focused on trying to breathe I couldn't think straight."

At hospital, Rebecca says she was 'faced with lots of doctors and nurses'.

She was given nebulisers every four hours and put on a drip, she says.

"I was not allowed off the oxygen.

"I was not allowed to walk and talking was almost impossible, I just didn't have the energy."

But by the evening Rebecca said she felt a lot better.

John had come to see her straight from work and left the hospital at about 10pm when she was feeling okay.

She said she had wanted to go home as well but doctors advised her to stay overnight.

Now Rebecca says "if I hadn't stayed in hospital that night it would have been a very different story".

She recalls: "As soon as the lights went out I felt wheezy and machines started beeping.

"My oxygen levels had dropped so low.

"The nurse phoned John to say I had deteriorated."

A few hours after John had left her, he received a call saying "I suggest you come back now," Rebecca says.

"When they phoned John I thought it must be really serious.

"He was really scared, I could see it on his face.

"Everything nurses tried didn't work. My body didn't respond.

"One of them said 'I don't know what else we can do' and that scared me."

Rebecca feared she was hours away from not making it as her body failed to respond to any of the treatment she was having.

"I was 27 and I thought 'this can't be happening,'" she said.

Rebecca added: "Seeing my oxygen levels drop, I realised 'this is something that I can't control, it's out of my hands'.

"I was bedridden, exhausted and drained. It was horrible.  I kept saying 'I'm OK' because I convinced myself that if I kept saying it, I would be.

"I was on the same ward as someone who passed away in the night, and another person who had organ failure. So I knew it was serious.

"I was thinking 'I need to go home and see Louie. I shouldn't be here.'

"Just the thought of not seeing Louie again petrified me.

"Even though I knew how serious it was, I thought 'I have to get better'.

"I have never been so scared in my life."

Rebecca's temperature reached 40.8C and she says she was told it was so high she was at risk of having a seizure.

She said she had to have cold fluids pumped through her and an air conditioning unit beside her bed to try and lower her temperature.

Yet she felt so cold she was shivering and was "begging to have a blanket".

Medics discovered Rebecca had an infection on her lung and she was put on an antibiotic drip to clear it.

After eventually stabilising that night, she went on to spend six days in hospital where during the days she would feel okay but every night she would deteriorate in the same way.

Rebecca was well looked after though and has praised the medical staff that took care of her, saying they were amazing and she couldn't fault them.

But she missed her son desperately while she was in hospital.

"Louie didn't understand, he was so little. I was worried about him and just wanted to get back to him," she said.

"The thought of him growing up without a mum or leaving him – I had to do everything I could to make sure I got better and came back home to him."

Slowly and surely, Rebecca says she got better each day until eventually she was well enough to go home.

But it was certainly a wake up call for her.

"It made me realise how dangerous asthma can be," she said.

Realising life is short, Rebecca thought about her boyfriend and asked herself 'what are we waiting for?'

So a week after she left hospital, the couple went to view a wedding venue and booked it straight away.

And six months later, in July 2018, they got married at a hotel and Rebecca says it was "perfect".

She says: "While I was in hospital I thought 'am I ever going to get married?'

"I didn't know if I was going to get home, let alone get married, so it was extra special."

The whole experience has made Rebecca think differently about having asthma.

She said: "It opened my eyes up massively. Knowing it could take my life so quickly was a massive wake up call.

"I would say to anyone don't take it lightheartedly, it's serious."

Rebecca's husband John is running the London Marathon 2019 for Asthma UK.

On his fundraising page, he writes: "I’m running the 2019 London Marathon because my wife Becca suffers with Asthma.

"I feel helpless when Becca’s asthma is bad and can only watch her suffer so want to help raise money for Asthma UK so one day hopefully the money I raised will help towards finding a cure or at least a better means of living with it."

To donate to John’s fundraising page for Asthma UK click here

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