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Fern Britton's near-death experience: her journey to recovery

The former This Morning star contracted blood poisoning in 2016

fern britton
Bridie Wilkins
Bridie WilkinsSenior Health & Fitness Writer
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Fern Britton contracted sepsis (defined as a life-threatening reaction to an infection, per the NHS) in 2016, after becoming seriously ill from a routine hysterectomy.

The former This Morning presenter went through the operation in the summer of 2016, but when she returned home, she was consumed by an intense pain and could barely walk. Thankfully, the star survived the ordeal, but her journey to recovery hasn’t been an easy one. In honour of Sepsis Awareness Month, here's Fern's full story, as well as everything she wants you to know about the condition.

SEE: Fern Britton discusses recovery from illness that nearly killed her

WATCH: Fern Britton recalls moment to Phil Vickery broke down

Speaking to Prima in 2017, Fern said: "This time last year I was fighting for my life. I'd gone into hospital in July for a routine hysterectomy (which I needed to deal with longstanding fibroids), four days before my birthday."

Three days later, alarm bells started to ring for Fern. "I knew that something was wrong when the pain soared…" she said. "Four days after the op, I was still in a lot of pain. I called the hospital at 3am and they suggested paracetamol and a wait-and-see approach but, by the next day, the pain had intensified so much that I could barely walk."

RELATED: Fern Britton opens up about 18-year marriage to Phil Vickery

She said she had started to feel better once an ambulance arrived, so turned down the opportunity to go to hospital, but regretted it the next day. "By the next day, I was shivering, and my muscles and joints were hurting. 

"By now, the pain was so acute that I was having muscle contractions in my abdomen. In desperation, Phil [now ex-husband, Phil Vickery] rang the doctor's receptionist and she overrode everyone to send an ambulance. It's no exaggeration to say that I owe her my life."

fern britton phil© Photo: Getty Images

Fern Britton was married to now-ex husband Phil Vickery at the time

Fern went on to say that she was sent straight to resus upon arrival at hospital, where a scan revealed she had several abscesses in her stomach, and blood tests confirming she had E-coli. She had an emergency op to remove the abscesses 24 hours later. It was then that she thought her life was coming to an end.

"On the night of the procedure, I was resigned to dying," she told Prima. "The theatre nurse offered to put a plaster over my wedding ring. Instead, I took off my ring and gave it to my daughter, who was with me. I hated the thought of them taking it from my dead body to give to her. So, I said, 'You look after it for me.'

"I survived, but the battle wasn't over. A day or so later, I developed pneumonia and my lung collapsed. But I pulled through, thanks to the incredible NHS team who looked after me beyond anything I could have hoped for."

Two years later in 2018, she revealed that she was still working on her fitness. Speaking on Good Morning Britain, she said: "I'm not quite as fit as I was but it's because of that. But I am getting fitter."

fern britton run© Photo: Instagram

Fern Britton took up the Couch to 5k challenge two years after contracting sepsis

She also shared a photo on Instagram to mark a big fitness milestone. "Week 4 of Couch to 5k done," she wrote. "Can't believe I'm getting back to fitness after #Sepsis nearly 2 years ago. Goal is to be able to run 10k by the autumn."

During her appearance on GMB, Fern shared her advice for anyone who might find themselves in a similar position. "I was in bed thinking, 'I am going to die. I'm dying'," she explained. "Everybody who gets that ill and thinks in their mind 'I am going to die' – if you're at home thinking I'm in all this pain and you've just had some kind of insult to your body where a bug could go in, it could be sepsis, so you must ring your doctor and ask, 'Could this be sepsis?'"

View post on Twitter

A year later in 2019, she shared the same words of advice on Twitter: "Sepsis. It is now 3 years since I survived. If you have recently had a cut on your skin and you start to feel VERY unwell. Flu like. Extreme pain. Not peeing much. Ask your doctor, 'Could it be sepsis?'"

"We need to be more aware of sepsis," she told Prima. "More than 250,000 people contract sepsis in the UK every year, with 44,000 dying from it!

fern britton book z

Fern: My Story, £12, Amazon


"It can be caused by something as innocent as an insect bite, so it's time to take notice of the symptoms, which include nausea and vomiting, high temperature, confusion, not peeing very much – all of which should have a red flag to the medical services in my case, especially as I'd had an operation just days before.

"Knowledge is power and it could save so many lives. In fact, acting quick can save 14,000 lives, according to the UK Sepsis Trust."

More information on sepsis, including what it is, causes, symptoms and treatment can be found at the UK Sepsis Trust website and via the NHS.

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