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Moray MSP Richard Lochhead reflects on six-week sepsis battle which left him struggling to walk and unable to speak


By Ewan Malcolm

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MORAY MSP Richard Lochhead says that he is on course to make a full but “gradual” recovery after undergoing life-saving emergency heart surgery last month.

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead pictured in his garden having now returned to his home in Elgin to continue his recovery. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead pictured in his garden having now returned to his home in Elgin to continue his recovery. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Mr Lochhead fell ill during an event in Edinburgh in May.

He initially thought he was coming down with the flu but a few days later, after collapsing on the floor of his bathroom and being left unable to move, it was clear he was suffering from something much more serious.

He was rushed to Dr Gray’s Hospital by ambulance where he was diagnosed with sepsis.

And a matter of hours later he was transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to undergo emergency surgery to deal with the infection and replace a heart valve.

Mr Lochhead said: “As you can imagine the first day or two is a bit of a blur.

“I had an infection but we still don’t know the cause of it. It could have been something as simple as a scratch.

“It all happened really quickly.

“The operation was a big one. There were some touch and go moments so it was a very anxious time for my family.

“They faced some big challenges getting me through it.

“The operation and the process around that was actually a lot longer than expected. It was more than a day.

“The operation itself was a number of hours and then they had to wait to go back to me for my blood to clot.

“If I hadn’t had the treatment then I wouldn’t be here today because it was a very urgent operation to effectively save my life.”

Mr Lochhead was initially taken to Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Mr Lochhead was initially taken to Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Mr Lochhead went through a six week course of antibiotics to tackle the infection following the surgery.

But he also faced challenges building up the strength to walk again and was unable to speak for over a week after completely losing his voice.

Despite the harrowing ordeal, he says that the experience has been an “eye opener” having never been admitted to hospital before for a serious illness.

“As a politician, clearly the NHS is one of the biggest issues I deal with in terms of case work in Moray,” he said.

“But as a patient I was given a unique insight in an intense way and it’s opened my eyes and given me that lived experience.

“As I said, that was actually the first time that I have been seriously ill. Before I was actually quite fit and healthy.

“I was feeling great but the infection just came out of nowhere.

“This can only help me understand even more as a politician how important the NHS is.”

Emergency heart surgery at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary saved Mr Lochhead’s life.
Emergency heart surgery at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary saved Mr Lochhead’s life.

Mr Lochhead was discharged from hospital last weekend after more than a month of treatment and follow-up care.

He has praised the “scores” staff who treated him over the course of his stay adding that the experience has been a “humbling” one.

“The care that I got at both Dr Gray’s and in Aberdeen was exceptional,” he said.

“I met scores of staff over my stay and they were so compassionate and understanding and patient.

“It was very humbling because I was very vulnerable but the NHS were outstanding and they were there for me in my hour of need.

“They were all so caring and I got quite close to them.

“I gave them a big hug when I left the ward.”

It is expected that Mr Lochhead will make a full recovery in one to two months having now returned to his home in Elgin.

Much of his case work will continue to be dealt with by his office staff over that time until he is ready to return.

“With every day that goes by at the moment I’m feeling a little better,” he added.

“In terms of my activity in the constituency, I can only ask my constituents for their understanding and their patience as I try to make a full recovery over the coming weeks.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the many cards and well wishes I have received so far.

“In politics sometimes things can be quite heated but I’ve been so humbled by how kind everyone has been.”


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