When former policeman Dean Smahon lost both legs and a hand to sepsis, the prospect of ever enjoying a happy family life seemed remote.
Mistakes in not diagnosing the disease early enough led to his body shutting down and left him in a dark hole he feared he might never escape from.
But courage and love, helped by the wonders of modern technology and medicine, enabled him to make a remarkable recovery.
He is now about to become a dad.
Dean Smahon and his wife Kirsty are expecting their first child after Dean’s recovery
Dean and Kirsty during his treatment in hospital were married three years after he was given a 5 per cent chance of living
Dean competing in the javelin event before the disease took his legs
Three years after being given a 5 per cent chance of survival, Mr Smahon defied excruciating pain to walk down the aisle on his prosthetic legs to marry the woman who stood by him throughout.
Now thanks to IVF treatment the couple are expecting their first baby in February and the father-to-be is planning on changing nappies using a high-tech prosthetic hand he is due to have fitted this month.
Mr Smahon, who was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for arresting dangerous terrorists while working as a police officer in Northern Ireland, is set to receive a seven-figure settlement for his civil claim against Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust because of late diagnosis and treatment by doctors.
The trust has admitted liability and lawyers are close to a final agreement for compensation to fund his needs for life.
Ironically, after five failed courses of IVF on the NHS, it was an interim payment relating to his legal action that enabled his determined wife Kirsty to immediately undergo a sixth, and successful course, at a private clinic.
Commenting on the prospect of becoming a father for the first time, Mr Smahon, 54, of Leeds, said: ‘It’s amazing. It really is a miracle after all that has happened to me.’
Despite losing eight fingers, he hopes to become a ‘hands-on’ father.
He said: ‘It would be wonderful to pick a baby up safely in my hands and change a nappy.’
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Dean and Kirsty were married at Leeds Minster in June 2013, with the groom walking down the aisle despite not having a working hip joint
Dean tragically lost both his legs (left) to the sepsis disease as well as eight fingers (right)
The disease also took part of his nose after blood poisoning was not identified quickly enough
Mr Smahon’s ordeal began in October 2010 when he fell ill while living in Leeds and working as a DJ.
He was just seven weeks into a relationship with Kirsty, 36, and their lives were suddenly turned upside down.
He was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary with severe hip pain, fever and shakes, which worsened and his body began shutting down as he was admitted to intensive care and put in an induced coma for 11 days.
His lawyers said there was a vital 20-hour delay in diagnosing and starting sepsis treatment. The tell-tale symptoms were there, but Mr Smahon wasn’t observed properly and by the time blood poisoning was identified it was too late to stop the devastating effects.
It was a classic case. His immune system overreacted to an infection and began attacking its own organs and tissues.
The couple with friends in hospital during his recovery from the disease
Yet somehow Mr Smahon pulled through and he was released from hospital after three months. But he paid a heavy price for vital delays in identifying his condition.
Over two years he underwent 30 operations which saw both legs amputated below the knee, as well as his right hand and three fingers on his left hand.
He had two hip replacement operations and parts of his nose and ear were removed. Depression was a predictable side effect and tortured him for six months.
Dean as a police officer in Northern Ireland
Recalling the darkest days, he said: ‘I was active, I liked to keep fit, I had pride in how I looked, I’d met a girl I really liked and all of a sudden I had to cope with losing my legs, hand and bits of my face.
‘I’d lost my dignity and self-worth. Kirsty left her teaching job to care for me. It was a very dark period and felt as though life wasn’t worth living.’
Thanks to Kirsty’s devotion he pulled through and proposed on the second anniversary of his illness. The couple married at Leeds Minster in June 2013, with the groom walking down the aisle despite not having a working hip joint.
Mr Smahon knew that due to an issue unrelated to the sepsis he could never father a child naturally.
But after three years of IVF, his wife became pregnant and they are looking forward to the family life neither imagined was possible.
She said: ‘I’m so glad I followed my gut instinct and stuck with it. Dean’s mood put us under great stress but thankfully it has worked out very well.’
Mr Smahon has completed a theology degree and hopes to do voluntary work in prisons.
The couple have told their story to raise awareness of the dangers of sepsis.
Dean and Kirsty enjoying a holiday despite the loss of his legs to the disease
The Daily Mail’s End the Sepsis Scandal campaign revealed how the NHS 111 hotline was unable to diagnose sepsis in children, and how toddler William Mead died in December 2014 after 16 failures to spot the signs that he was seriously ill.
Mr Smahon’s solicitor, Sarah Coles, of law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: ‘Not diagnosing and treating Dean’s infection early enough changed his life forever.
‘It’s important that lessons are learned from this sepsis case to improve the diagnosis and treatment of others in future.’
Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said: ‘Stories like Dean’s remind us of the devastating human cost of sepsis.
‘Individuals and families have their lives torn apart each day in the UK by this condition, but better awareness could save thousands of lives every year.’
Suzanne Hinchliffe, chief nurse and deputy chief executive at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘We regret that Mr Smahon did not receive the prompt treatment for his infection that he had the right to expect, and we reiterate our sincere apologies to him and his wife for these failings.
‘The Trust has been implementing an improvement programme for the treatment and care of people with sepsis, led by one of our consultants in urgent care, and this is continuing.’