Man who was told he had seasonal flu by a doctor ended up in coma for ten days over Christmas
Devan Hopkins was told by a doctor that he was experiencing winter flu symptoms after he started feeling unwell in October 2022. The 24-year-old, who was suffering from severe headaches and exhaustion, was later prescribed migraine tablets after two further blood tests.
But over the next week Devan started to lose four kilos in weight and his headaches got worse. He underwent more blood tests and was told he had a heart murmur when he returned to the doctor.
Devan, a labourer from Morecambe, said: “Normally I’m really fit and healthy and have only occasionally needed to go to the doctor.
“I was feeling really under the weather and the usual over-the-counter medicines weren’t having any effect. I decided I needed to go and just check things out, thinking that maybe I needed a short course of antibiotics or something to clear it up.
“A few weeks later, I went back to the doctor for more blood tests. By this point, the infection markers and other blood markers had gone through the roof and it was on this appointment that the doctor heard a loud heart murmur. We had no idea the nightmare that was ahead.”
Devan was sent straight to Lancaster Royal Infirmary and had an echocardiogram where he was diagnosed with infective endocarditis – an infection caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream.
Further tests showed Devan had a bicuspid heart valve – where the aortic valve only has two flaps instead of the usual three.
He was transferred to Blackpool Victoria Hospital for surgery to replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve and remove an abscess on the aorta.
The operation was due to last six hours, but 13 hours later the surgeon told Devan’s parents, Tracy and Glen Hopkins, both 54, that the procedure had been “complex”.
Devan said: “Not only had I got strep and pneumonia I also had got sepsis which had wreaked havoc on my heart and lungs.
“The surgeons and theatre team had worked tirelessly to save my life, they had done everything they could to save me but I was now in a critical condition and on life-support.
“My family and ex-girlfriend stayed with me, praying and hoping for a miracle.”
Devan was placed in an induced coma over Christmas for ten days.
He was brought off life-support on December 27, 2022, and spent a further 14 days in the hospital.
His mum, Tracy, said of the moment he came around: “We were saying we love you, we are proud of you and you thought so hard.
“It is hard to describe the moment, I experienced pure joy to see that he was still with us
“All the way through we wanted to remain positive and kept telling him to fight.”
He was finally allowed home and reunited with the rest of his friends and family in January 2023 and hailed as a “Christmas miracle” by hospital staff.
He said: “When I left the hospital it was quite an emotional moment for my family and me, I know they had always believed that I was going to come around but there was always that worry I might not.
“As a family, we are indebted to the amazing team at Blackpool led by Mr David Rose, a cardio thoracic consultant.
“They went above and beyond to save me, even giving up some of their own precious time with family at Christmas to come and look after me.
“They were all so kind and are an example of our NHS at its very best, without their expertise and care I wouldn’t be here now."
This festive season, the British Heart Foundation is urging people to donate to the charity to help fund its lifesaving research into heart and circulatory diseases.
The charity’s ‘a gift that keeps on living’ campaign is highlighting stories like Devan’s to show how vital the British Heart Foundation’s research is – not only for the millions of people affected by these conditions in the UK, but also for their loved ones.
To donate to the British Heart Foundation this festive season and give a gift that keeps on living, visit bhf.org.uk/Christmas