After spending more than nine months in intensive care – with his family being warned four times to prepare for the worst – things are finally looking up for Sam Clement.
The 29-year-old has defied all expectations in getting his life back on track after being rushed to Morriston Hospital in the summer of 2021 with what turned out to be pancreatitis.
Sam was so ill he was quickly transferred to the hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where he would spend a rollercoaster 284 days fighting for his life before coming through the other side.
Sam (pictured above with mum Kathryn and stepdad Richard) said: “I remember going to hospital with bad stomach pains, thinking it was food poisoning, lying in bed and waking up three weeks later not knowing where I was.
“As it went on, if I’m being honest, I never thought I’d get out. Knowing that I might not make it made me feel scared, wondering why this was happening to me.
“I almost gave up hope but I have a very strong family, who kept any dark thoughts at bay, and told me I could do it. That really helped.”
Thankfully Sam is now well on the mend.
He said: “I’m back in my old job, and have my own flat and I have a new girlfriend. I’m living life like I did before I went into hospital.
“I’d like to say thank you for everything to all the staff who helped me. Everyone was amazing.”
Anita Jonas a Consultant on Morriston Hospital’s ICU said: “I don’t think I can remember anyone being so critically unwell and surviving that long. It’s amazing. If someone is really unwell, even though we do everything we can for them, quite often we lose them – they can’t survive despite all the treatment and organ support.
“Sam was initially admitted in August 2021. He came in with abdominal pain and was diagnosed with pancreatitis. He then came to the unit because he deteriorated on the ward.
“He needed organ support so we had to put him to sleep and intubate him. We also had to put him on dialysis.
“He was placed in an induced coma several times during his stay. It was 284 days before we were able to discharge him.”
Sam’s journey to recovery was far from straightforward.
Dr Jonas said: “There were lots of ups and downs.
“Initially he was really unwell and then he improved a little bit but deteriorated again. There were lots of occasions where we thought we wouldn’t be able to help him.”
Dr Jonas praised the whole team from doctors to nurses to technicians and physios.
She said: “I’m really proud of my team, they are fantastic. They work together so well.
“It’s challenging looking after a critically ill patient, each day there are specific difficulties and challenges. It’s also challenging mentally. But they keep coming back and go above and beyond.”
Sam’s mother, Kathryn Pearce, said: “It was the most emotional rollercoaster we’ve ever been on. It was very, very hard.
“We were told on four occasions that he may not pull through and that we should prepare ourselves for the worst.
“But Sam always came back. I think he shocked them as well as us.
“We just asked them, ‘Please will you just give him a chance. He will get there in the end.’
“And he did.”
They say that the darkest hour is just before the dawn – and Sam began to get better following a fright.
Kathryn explained: “He had an epileptic fit in April last year, it came from nowhere and knocked us for six. But after that it was like he reset. Like they had switched him off and back on again. Within a week he was off the ventilator again, second trachea tube removed and the physios managed to get him out of bed and walking.
“It was absolutely amazing. He just started to fly and they started making noises that he could may be go onto a ward. He just looked like Sam.
“He never went back on the ward. He came straight home from intensive care.
“It was wonderful to have him home but scary all the same.”
The family made the decision to share their story in order to publicly thank the team.
Kathryn said: “Everyone who works in the unit is absolutely amazing. We cannot thank them enough. Without them, Sam wouldn’t be here.
“If it wasn’t for their dedication, hard work, support, and their love – we felt their love the whole time – my boy wouldn’t be here today.
“We wanted to do something for the unit itself. And one of the things which kept Sam going was the telly. He was in bed for eight-and-a-half months before they were able to get him back on his feet. It’s a long time to sit there and stare at the wall.
“Every time he became ill, and they had to sedate him, the telly would disappear because somebody else would need it as there wasn’t enough sets to go around.
“So we bought 10 televisions for the unit. We didn’t fundraise or anything, we wanted it to be personal from us.
“It’s just a little token of our thanks because there’s nothing that we could give that would ever be enough.”
Stepdad, Richard Pearce, added: “It’s tremendous having him home. The staff have been amazing. Whilst the NHS may have its problems, ultimately, it’s the staff who make it. They put their patients above everything else.
“Everyone who we have come into contact with, throughout the whole of this, has been absolutely amazing.”
ICU sister Melanie Philips said that the family’s strength had made a difference.
“They were so cohesive,” she said. “They helped him through. They were really strong.
“The number of times we warned the poor family he was likely to pass away – it was so frequent. Yet they were amazing. They just took everything we said with such grace. Yes they were upset, but they treated us with compassion.”
The staff were just as pleased as the family to see Sam return home.
Melanie said: “It was amazing seeing him go home. It really motivated us as we had just come out of the pandemic and everyone was feeling a little bit down.
“Because of everything Sam and his family went through, we collected a huge amount of money and paid for them to go to a bistro in Mumbles for a meal.”