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How swine fever almost killed super-fit Charles
2:22pm Friday 1st November 2013 in News
HE OWES his life to a machine that did the work of his heart and lungs when his body was attacked by the swine flu virus.
Now former England U21 rugby player and ex-Romsey man, Charles Gardiner, has helped raise money for an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine which saved his life four years ago.
Prior to going down with swine flu, super-fit Charles won awards for his sporting prowess. He led the Hampshire U16 rugby squad, played in the England squad and was attached to the London Irish Rugby Club and he picked up the Hampshire Outstanding Sportsperson of the Year Award in 2004.
His nightmare began on October, 13, 2009, when he went down with a fever, myalgia, cough and shortness of breath and after five days was admitted to Salisbury District Hospital with swine flu.
His condition deteriorated rapidly and he was rushed into intensive care. Despite being put on life support, he didn’t respond to treatment and medical experts referred him to a specialist isolation unit at Glenfield Hospital in Leicestershire.
His dad, Neil, said: “He deteriorated at such a rate, it was unbelievable. Doctors at Salisbury told us there was nothing more they could do and advised us to prepare for the worst.They didn’t expect him to live.”
A specialist team at Glenfield Hospital flew to Salisbury to accompany Charles in a land ambulance to Leicestershire.
In the ambulance, he made history by becoming the first adult to be put on a portable ECMO machine. “His heart stopped, but they managed to get it going again. It stopped three times after that during his 14 weeks in Glenfield Hospital.
In the end, doctors fitted a pacemaker to stop it happening again,” added Neil.
His wife, Mandy, described the unit at Glenfield where Charles, now 25, was treated.
“It was like something out of a science fiction film. Charles was in a hangar-like room and he had all these tubes in him and there were polythene tunnels everywhere,”
Despite being placed on the ECMO machine at Glenfield Hospital, Charles was kept on full-life support for 10 days.
Afterwards, his condition improved and he was taken off the ECMO but had to go back on the machine when his health deteriorated again.
He stayed on the machine until November 12 when he had shown positive signs of recovering from the swine flu but he remained in the intensive care unit until he was transferred back to Salisbury District Hospital 11 days later.
Charles, who is 6ft 6ins tall and weighed 18 stone before his brush with death, has made a remarkable recovery, said his father. “He lost about six and a half stone and looked horrendous. We were warned that he might have brain damage, but thankfully he didn’t,”
Two Glenfield nurses, Gail Faulkner and Megan Greatrix, attended a charity ball in Romsey to help raise funds for ECMO and awareness of the life-saving machines, which cost £44,000 each.
The ball raised £8,745 and was attended by 155 friends and family.
“We can’t thank the doctors and nurses that treated Charles enough, said his mother.
Charles, who went to schools in Romsey when he lived at Sherfield English, now lives at Highcliffe in Dorset, where he is a sales executive with Westover Land Rover at nearby Christchurch.
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