Health Stories

I thought it was only man flu

When Serena's hubby started feeling sick she didn't know he would end up in a coma.

Here Serena Costa, 36, tells the story in her own words. 


When my husband Andy, 39, complained of a sore throat and chills, I wasn’t overly worried.

‘It must be man flu,’ I joked, trying to make him smile.

He soon got worse though, having muscle spasms, pain, and a fever.

Scared, I took him to Alfred Hospital, where doctors did blood tests.

When they gave me the results, I was stunned.

‘He’s bad,’ the consultant told me.

A bacterial infection had caused a throat abscess, which had burst, leading to a deep neck space infection.

The infection was spreading around his body, threatening his organs.

We’re not sure he’ll survive,’ he said.

‘Oh my God,’ I cried.

I waited in shock as Andy was wheeled in for emergency surgery.

‘We’ve cleared as much of the infection as we could,’ the surgeon said afterwards. ‘He’s in an induced coma to give his body a chance to heal.’

Still, Andy went downhill.

The bacteria, called Streptococcus anginosus, travelled through his bloodstream and body tissue, shutting down his body, organ by organ.

First it went to his lungs, then his kidneys, then his liver.

In the first 10 days, he had six surgeries as doctors struggled to find the right antibiotics.

Each night, I’d write up what had happened to him that day and text it to his phone so he could read it once he’d recovered.

Hi darling, today was pretty rough. We really wanted your kidneys to start working… I wrote.

I didn’t dare think he might never read it.

He was in intensive care
Andy was in intensive care (Source: Supplied)

Finally, after 20 days in intensive care, Andy began to improve.

And after 29 days, he emerged groggily from his coma, requesting a kiwi fruit to eat.

I was both ecstatic and stunned – Andy was strictly a meat and potatoes guy!

He had no idea what had happened to him.

Two and a half weeks later, he came home. He’d lost almost 20 kilos and so much muscle he could barely walk

I returned to work and one day, he rang in tears.

‘I just found the texts you sent me when I was sick,’ he said. ‘I had no idea what you went through.’

‘I’m just glad you’re alive,’ I said.

Deciding he wanted to give back to Alfred Hospital for saving his life, Andy signed up to run a 10km race.

Really! I thought. He could hardly walk!

And before he was sick, his main exercise was lifting schooners in the pub with his mates!

Starting his training, he walked to the shops with me.

It was only five minutes and it exhausted him.

Gradually his fitness improved though, and a year after being admitted to hospital, he ran the race, raising $11,000.

‘I’m proud of you,’ I cried, giving him a big kiss at the finish line.

I’m so grateful to the medical staff who worked tirelessly to save Andy’s life.

We’d not been married very long when he got sick.

Now, thanks to them, we hopefully have a lifetime together.


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