Call the Midwife star dies of Sepsis

Call the Midwife star Stephen McGann has admitted he broke down in tears watching the death of nurse Barbara Gilbert in Sunday’s episode – because his own wife almost suffered the same fate.

The 55-year-old actor, who is married to Heidi Thomas, 55, the writer behind the popular BBC drama, has documented in his memoir Flesh and Blood how Heidi almost died when a case of sepsis was mistaken for a bout of food poisoning by doctors.

As he watched along with millions of other heartbroken viewers as much-loved character Barbara succumbed to sepsis with her husband Tom by her bedside, Stephen reflected on how his wife contracted the illness a year after their son was born 20 years ago.

‘That episode has had me in bits,’ he tweeted after the episode aired on Sunday…


Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, occurs when the body reacts to an infection by attacking its own organs and tissues.

Some 44,000 people die from sepsis every year in the UK. Worldwide, someone dies from the condition every 3.5 seconds.

Sepsis has similar symptoms to flu, gastroenteritis and a chest infection.

These include:

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • Passing no urine in a day
  • Severe breathlessness
  • It feels like you are dying
  • Skin mottled or discoloured

Symptoms in children are:

  • Fast breathing
  • Fits or convulsions
  • Mottled, bluish or pale skin
  • Rashes that do not fade when pressed
  • Lethargy
  • Feeling abnormally cold

Under fives may be vomiting repeatedly, not feeding or not urinating for 12 hours.

Other at-risk people include those with weak immune systems, chemotherapy patients, pregnant women, the elderly and the very young.

Treatment varies depending on the site of the infection but involves antibiotics, IV fluids and oxygen, if necessary.

Source: UK Sepsis Trust and NHS Choices

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Anyone can develop sepsis but it is most common in people who have recently had surgery, have a urinary catheter or have stayed in hospital for a long time.