Max’s lunch landed him in hospital needing heart surgery...
Here, Maxwell Watson, 66, tells the story in his own words.
Breathing a happy sigh, I smiled and glanced over at my wife Rujira, 64.
‘What do you fancy doing today?’ I asked.
It was August 2018 and we were on holiday in Sydney visiting my stepdaughter Rajita, 34, and her husband Kay, 35.
After spending the weekend together, the kids were at work and we had the day to ourselves.
‘How about heading to Madame Tussauds and lunch somewhere?’ Rujira suggested.
‘Sounds great,’ I agreed.
Travelling into the city, we spent the morning looking at the amazing wax figures and taking snaps with the Queen.
‘That was fantastic,’ Rujira said as we left.
Walking along Darling Harbour in the sun, we found a restaurant that looked perfect for lunch.
Browsing the menu, I saw the fish and chips.
One of my favourites! I thought.
I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and I was hungry.
When the waiter brought my meal over just minutes after we ordered, I couldn’t help thinking it didn’t look very presentable.
It seemed more like someone’s leftovers!
But too hungry to worry, and not wanting to cause a fuss, I tucked in anyway.
It tasted delicious and I was quickly full.
After our lunch, we headed back to Rajita’s for the afternoon.
But sitting on the lounge, I started feeling queasy and then I was running to the bathroom to throw up.
Stumbling back to the lounge, I hoped that would be the last of it, but the sickness continued and then the diarrhoea started.
‘Oh love, you must have a tummy bug,’ Rujira said, handing me a glass of water.
I assumed it was a 24-hour virus. With no energy, I took myself to bed while Rujira, Rajita and Kay went to the shops.
I tried to sleep, but I was constantly having to get up to go to the bathroom.
I’d broken into a sweat and when Rujira came home a few hours later, I was delirious.
‘We’ve got to get you to hospital,’ she said, worried.
By the time I reached St George Hospital, I was completely unconscious.
Blood tests showed I’d contracted Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia, a contagious bacteria that causes food poisoning.
I was in a coma for 72 hours until doctors managed to stabilise me.
When I woke up, the doctor came to speak to me.
‘The staph was running rapidly through your circulatory system. If you’d left it another hour, you would have died,’ he said.
‘It must’ve been from the fish at lunch,’ Rujira said.
I couldn’t believe how bad it was.
My fish and chips could have killed me!
Despite giving me powerful antibiotics, the bug still didn’t go.
‘I think there’s an underlying problem, we’ll run more tests,’ the doctor said.
The results revealed some shocking news.
‘You have a pre-existing heart condition and your aorta valve is badly corroded,’ the doctor said. ‘We can see the staph bug chewing away on it. You need an operation to replace it.’
It was terrifying.
I was on holiday and now I was facing open heart surgery to put a pig’s valve inside me.
After surgery, the doctor came to see me.
‘If it wasn’t for the bug, it’s likely your heart condition would still be going on unnoticed.’
Eventually, my heart would have given up and I might not have been lucky enough to make it to a hospital in time.
The bug-filled fish and chips had actually saved my life!
During my recovery, someone from Health NSW came to see me. They wanted to visit the restaurant I’d eaten at.
But, frustratingly, we couldn’t remember the name of it, so there wasn’t anything they could do.
After three weeks in hospital, I finally went home.
I felt so lucky.
Getting sick made me re-evaluate life and I realised you never know what’s around the corner.
Now, I appreciate every day so much more.
It’s certainly made me realise that if I was ever worried about how my food looked again, I wouldn’t hesitate to mention it.
Food poisoning can be so dangerous – it’s just ironic that in my situation it actually saved my life.