New charity set up in name of Scottish GP killed by sepsis


A DOCTOR who died hours after giving birth to a stillborn baby has inspired a charity that hopes to save the lives of thousands of Scots.

Tragic GP Fiona Agnew died of blood poisoning in August last year – the day after losing her baby daughter Isla.

Her husband, who was also struck down by the disease last summer, said hearing of his death was “the darkest period of my life.”

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The family of 38-year-old Dr Agnew – determined that something positive should come out of the double tragedy – have launched a charity to raise awareness of blood poisoning.

The Fiona Elizabeth Agnew Trust (FEAT) will raise money to fund research into blood poisoning – or sepsis – which kills around 37,000 people in the UK every year – one every 15 minutes.

Dr Agnew worked at the Richmond Practice in Bo’ness near Falkirk and lived in Edinburgh with her her husband, tax consultant Craig Stobo, and two-year-old son Robert.

But the family was shattered last August just as it was preparing for the arrival of baby Isla the following month.

Speaking for the first time about Mrs Agnew’s death, Dr Agnew’s husband Craig Stobo revealed he suffered from the same illness which killed his wife – and she saved his life by spotting the symptoms.

Mr Stobo was in hospital for seven days after contracting sepsis, but Dr Agnew was admitted to a different hospital.

He said the illness struck in a matter of hours: ““I felt fine when I woke in the morning but only a few hours later I was at my desk feeling very cold and shivery, and by mid-afternoon, I had a severe headache, nausea and a temperature.

“Fiona called me on her way to a 35 week scan and instinctively recognised that my symptoms weren’t just the flu or a virus.
“She encouraged me to see my GP and get admitted to hospital and I have no doubt that without her early intervention, I wouldn’t be here today.”
While Mr Stobo was battling with sepsis, Fiona also began feeling unwell, showing symptoms of the same illness which would eventually kill her and their unborn child.
Mr Stobo continued: “While I was being treated with intravenous antibiotics in the Acute Ward of the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh I learned that Fiona had also fallen ill.”
It turned out she had succumbed to the same condition, and was seriously ill in Forth Valley Hospital in Larbert.”Unfortunately, her symptoms advanced much quicker and her system was compromised due to her pregnancy.”
Isla was still born and a few hours later, despite the latest medical techniques, machines and antibiotics, Fiona died of sepsis and septic shock.”
He continued: ““Awareness of sepsis is still very low and is certainly not on a level with other diseases such as meningitis, heart disease or cancer.  But this can change.
“Over the last 40 years, campaigns to improve awareness of symptoms, funding and medical research has had a dramatic difference on early detection, treatment and survival rates for these diseases. 
“I believe that through FEAT, we can achieve the same success with sepsis.”
A former colleague of Dr Agnew, Dr Colin Begg, Consultant Paediatric Intensivist at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, said early detection was vital.
He said: “Early detection and treatment of sepsis before it cascades out of control is the only way to improve survival rates.”
A study has shown that the risk of death from sepsis increases by almost 8% with every hour before treatment is started, and of those who have sever sepsis, the mortality rate is over 40%.”
Mr Stobo, 43, described finding out about his wife’s death as “the darkest period in my life.”
He was himself recovering from sepsis when hospital staff called him to tell him Fiona had passed away.
He said: “That was the darkest period of my life. I would rather create a positive legacy for Fiona.
“It’s had a huge impact on all of her family and her friends.”
He said the cause of the initial infection was still under investigation.
He continued: “Fortunately recognised it in me, but the tragedy is she got too ill to notice it in her.
“I’m lucky to be alive and not have any after effects.”

Dr Agnew, who qualified at Glasgow University, “had wanted to be a doctor since she was a wee girl,” added the charity.

Mr Stobo has taken a break from his high-profile  job with PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers).

A 96-mile sponsored walk for the charity, dubbed the “Ridiculous West Highland Way Challenge” raised more than £300 for the charity earlier this year.