Deniliquin man Paul Norrish was struck down by what he and his family initially believed to be a nasty case of gastroenteritis in the days leading up to Christmas.
Tragically, 10 days later before 2017 had ended, the 30 year-old father was dead.
Paul had actually contracted sepsis — the body’s extreme and life-threatening response to an infection where chemicals are released into the blood stream to fight the infection but instead trigger inflammatory responses which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.
The hold the disease took on Paul’s body is believed to have caused him to have a stroke on December 27, with a clot then blocking blood flow to his brain.
He was transported to St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne on life support on December 28, and less than 24 hours later he had passed away.
Paul was the only son of Jim and Dianne (dec) Norrish (nee Rowe), sister to Tracie and Amanda and step-son of Suzie.
Paul and his partner Hine Taingahue have a two year-old son Hunter, and he was also a loving uncle to six.
Together, the family has launched an education campaign, urging everyone to be aware of sepsis, how easily it can be contracted and the symptoms to look for.
Jim said while they have learned since Paul’s death that sepsis is a high occurring issue and claims many lives around the world, it’s also a condition that can often be misdiagnosed.
‘‘Even the doctors in Melbourne told us that it is very hard to determine when someone has sepsis,’’ Jim said.
‘‘They also told us that sepsis claims more lives in Australia than the national road toll, and even breast cancer.
‘‘It was only about 10 days before he passed away that Paul started feeling unwell — he was vomiting and had diarrhoea — and he said it felt like he had gastro.
‘‘He called an ambulance and went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and sent home with some antibiotics.
‘‘But he still wasn’t well and he couldn’t keep anything down, he was very lethargic and he also had some issues with delirium which we later found out was a symptom of sepsis.
‘‘He did have an infected tooth a little earlier in the month, but the doctors think it might have been a homemade tattoo he received just before getting sick that may have started off the infection.’’
Paul’s sisters said while their brother’s condition was hard to diagnose, they said improved continuity of care available to the community and a persistence from him to seek medical advice may have prevented the tragedy.
‘‘I had tried to get Paul in to see a doctor on another issue about three months ago, but because of the doctor shortage we’re experiencing at the moment no one could take him on,’’ Tracie said.
‘‘Having a personal relationship with your doctor can often help with diagnoses and treatment.
‘‘We also want people to know they should not be afraid to go back and seek more treatment if they are not getting better and to not be afraid to ask for blood tests or any other test,’’ Amanda added.
Sepsis does not discriminate and is always triggered by an infection. Bacterial, viral or fungal infections anywhere in your body can cause sepsis, although bacterial infections are the most common cause.
The infection can begin anywhere bacteria or other infectious agents can enter the body, including a scraped knee, a tooth abscess, or from a more serious medical problem such as appendicitis, pneumonia, meningitis, or a urinary tract infection.
Sepsis presents itself as a combination of symptoms, rather than a single sign.
If any two of the following symptoms are present, seek immediate medical assistance.
●A fever above 38.3ºC or a temperature below 36ºC;
●Heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute;
●Breathing rate higher than 20 breaths per minute;
●Probable or confirmed infection.
Paul, who had just learned he was expecting his second child with Hine, will be remembered as someone with a great sense of humour and a passion for life.
‘‘Anyone who knew Paul would say he had a unique carefree personality, and could be described as ‘Just Paul,’’ Jim said.
‘‘He had a real love for life and his family and friends and was the most gentlemanly and kind person.
‘‘He had a huge personality,’’ stepmother Suzie Norrish added.
‘‘And he loved to be a joker; he was a big clown,’’ Amanda said.
‘‘Our fond family memories of Paul often included laughter, from things he had done or said.’’
Tracie admitted their brother had fallen on hard times in his life, but that he was always striving for positive outcomes.
‘‘Things had started looking up for Paul, but no matter what the situation his family and friends meant everything to him,’’ she said.
‘‘He would always find a positive in all of the negatives — even in the hardest times, and no matter what life threw at him.
‘‘He really found his calling when his son Hunter came along.’’
Jim said aside from his family, Paul’s interests lay in ‘‘anything with wheels’’.
‘‘His dream job was to be a truck driver,’’ Jim said.
‘‘He loved going away in the truck with dad as a child,’’ Tracie added.
‘‘He was also one of those kids that pulled something apart just to see how it works, but it never went back together the same way,’’ she said with a laugh.
Paul will be farewelled in a graveside burial service today at the Deniliquin Lawn Cemetery from 11am.
The family said in lieu of flowers, donations are requested to the Australian Sepsis Network.