Alex Archer-Todde


At the end of March and the beginning of April 2007 I almost died. A lot of people were asking me about this at the time of writing, so if you want to know or just want a read, then here it is. I’ve put this in writing because it’s a morbid thing to talk about and I’m not a morbid character.

This is what I wrote upon returning to England on my first night home. I took part in an exchange to Sicily. The Sicilians came to us and this is about my trip to Sicily.

On the second day of my exchange I began to vomit, unable to hold down anything. Even when I drank water, I would throw up bile. I attributed this to having a long day of travelling and eating too late. Then I began to feel tight-chested and dizzy, it would hurt when I would respire. I thought this might be my asthma and thought to leave it a couple of days to get better.

That night I got a pain in my arm that is similar to when you lean on it and part of it goes dead – except this pain seeped into every part of my arm, the skin, the bone, and it wouldn’t leave when I would move my arm. I attributed this to leaning on it whilst I was sleeping and returned to sleep.

That night I experienced the worst physical pain I have ever felt and became delirious from the pain, thinking that my body was in halves and that I was wrapped in bandages. It was as if there was a person in my chest, kicking to get out every time my heart beat. To be honest, it was pure terror.

The next day I told my host family I was ill and they rang their doctor. He didn’t turn up. The mother of my host family saw I was getting whiter and whiter and took me to accident and emergency. I couldn’t breathe and every time I did, it hurt. There were no chairs in accident and emergency and so I sat on the floor.

After a series of tests I was told that my intercostal muscles were bruised from vomiting and that I could go home. One doctor said however that it would be a good idea to run a test again, as they weren’t too happy with it the first time. I went to get a scan of my heart whilst waiting for the results.

A part of the membrane of my heart on the left side had come loose because there was an infection there, the infection had damaged my heart, similar to the damage you would get after a small heart attack. I was admitted to intensive care in Tomaselli hospital in Catania, a specialist heart hospital, where I was diagnosed with acute myocarditis.

Within the next two days I could do nothing, couldn’t get up out of bed, couldn’t go to the toilet by myself or wash myself, I was rendered immobile.

On the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, I made a miraculous recovery. This isn’t an exaggeration of words, a nurse, prompted by my recovery, brought my mother some blessed bread – she thought it was a miracle.

She would later tell my mother, who flew out with my sister as soon as she found out about me being taken ill, that she thought my mother wouldn’t get there in time and that she’d be taking me home in a coffin.

I spent eleven days in hospital, four in intensive care and the remaining seven I spent sat in semi-intensive care. I could do things for myself and move around but was useless, as I couldn’t speak the language of the people around me.

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