A healthy postman was struck down by a deadly infection as he slept and it has cost him both his legs.
Ryan Nulty felt perfectly fine the day his life changed forever, October 13 last year.
He had completed his usual eight-mile round by 2pm and met his retired dad, Des, 71, for a few pints before heading home to bed.
But when the 46-year-old got up for work at 5:30am the next day he first signs something was seriously wrong had begun.
He had aching bones and was fluctuating between swaeting and the chills but put it down to the flu.
The father-of-two didn’t want to let his regulars down and set off on his round as usual.
But half-way through he became so ill he had to quit.
Ryan spent the rest of Saturday in bed but by the Sunday morning he had started shakign uncontrollably and was covered in a rash.
Worryingly, his feet were also freezing cold.
His partner, Shaaron Sargent, 45, realised something was seriously wrong and called an ambulance.
Ryan as suffering from sepsis , most commonly caused by meningitis, which is where the immune system attacks the body’s tissues and organs.
By now slipping in and out of consciousness, he was rushed to Redhill’s East Surrey Hospital and put into an induced coma in intensive care to help protect his organs.
Ryan, who has a daughter Sophie, 22, and a son Joseph, 19,from a previous relationship, said: “On the Saturday, I felt pretty terrible, but as all men do, I just went home, ran a bath and got into bed, hoping I’d be able to sleep it off.
“Then the next morning, I woke up feeling far, far worse and I remember my feet being so cold that I had to put Shaaron’s fluffy pink slippers on.”
When he finally came to eight days later on October 22 – after being brought out of the coma – he had no idea where he was or what had happened, becoming very delusional and unable to distinguish dreams from reality.
Ryan said: “I had all sorts of crazy ideas going through my head, like that there was some kind of big conspiracy going on within the NHS and I was there to expose it.
“I was totally out of it.”
With the sepsis still in his body on November 3 he was transferred to an intensive care unit at St Helier Hospital in Sutton, as it was closer to home, where he was given dialysis for six hours each day for three days to help his failing kidneys filter the blood.
Gradually, with Shaaron at his side day and night, he began to get better as the sepsis – which doctors put down to a latent case of meningitis that Ryan didn’t realise he had – began to recede.
He was finally allowed home on December 4 but the illness had taken a terrible toll.
While his body had fought to protect his vital organs, the extremities were neglected and his feet were “black and leathery”.
The tissue was effectively dead because of a lack of blood supply, which had lead to gangrene and doctors had no choice but to amputate.
Ryan said: “By the time the doctors said when I was at St Helier that I’d have to have my feet cut off, I wasn’t really that shocked as they were in a terrible state.
“Nevertheless, though, it was still distressing.”
With the operation booked for January 31 at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, Ryan was allowed to return home for a few weeks, where he was nursed by Shaaron, who quit her job to look after her partner of three years.
Ryan, who had worked as a postman for 10 years, said: “Shaaron was wonderful.
“She helped me dress, gave me baths and took me around in a wheelchair. Without her, I don’t know what I’d have done.”
While Ryan admits there were nights when he and Shaaron would burst into tears at the thought of what life would be like for him without feet, as the operation drew nearer, he became more accepting of his fate.
Painful and “looking gruesome” he knew he would eventually be better off without his feet.
Describing himself as a “cup half full” person, he added: “I called my feet my Saxon boots because they had become rock hard and they were almost totally black. The skin was like thick leather.
“I knew they had to go and by the time I had the operation I just wanted them off.
"I went into the operating theatre with a smile on my face and I came out two and a half hours later with a smile too.
“I felt relieved, even though it was very peculiar to look down and see the space where my feet had been.”
Now recuperating from the operation – which involved amputating his feet at the shin – in a recovery unit at Horsham Hospital Ryan is building up his strength in preparation for being fitted with two prosthetic legs, which will enable him to walk again.
Though he will not be able to return to his job as a postman, he still hopes to work in a different capacity for the Royal Mail and despite all he has been though is optimistic about the future.
His family have launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for mobility equipment and to raise awareness for the condition.
Ryan said: “My life has been turned upside down in the blink of an eye, but I don’t feel any self-pity or bitterness in any way.
“It could really have been catastrophic but luckily I have a loving family who supported me all the way through this.
“And Shaaron, in particular, was incredible. When a lot of partners might have turned heel, she was with me throughout.
“It’s created a bond between us that’s stronger than I could have ever imagined, and together I feel like we’re about to embark on a new chapter of our lives.
“Things may be difficult for me in the future, but I have every confidence that I will conquer it all.
“I have plans to mow my lawn this summer and take my Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog, Geoffrey, for his walk – and I intend to keep them.”
Shaaron, who was told by doctors on several occasions o prepare herself for the worst, has nothing but praise for her courageous partner.
She said: “I cannot describe how emotional it was to be told that Ryan may not make it – I felt like my heart was physically breaking.
“It has been humbling how brave and positive Ryan has been throughout this all. He’s been absolutely astonishing.”
The UK Sepsis Trust, a charity founded with the aim of stopping preventable sepsis deaths, commented: “Sepsis can arise in the body as a result of any infection.
“Although only about 1% of sepsis cases arise from meningitis, this case demonstrates that sepsis can strike indiscriminately, at any time.
“If you or someone you know shows signs of infection it’s crucial to seek urgent medical help.
"With each hour that passes before the right antibiotics are administered, risk of death increases.”
To donate help Ryan raise money for mobility equipment, visit www.gofundme.com .
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