Grandfather left fighting for his life after developing sepsis from biting his finger nails
It's a habit that most of us probably had as kids, and one that a few of us still fall victim to as adults: biting our fingernails. To non-nail-biters, it probably seems like a pretty gross thing to do - not to mention it makes a super cringeworthy noise. But for folks who do enjoy chewing on the occasional hangnail, it's strangely addictive.
Unfortunately, it's also dangerous.
Ricky Kennedy, a 57-year-old grandfather from Scotland, almost died when he developed sepsis from biting his nails. After spending months in hospital, however, he pulled through - and is now telling others about his experience in order to raise awareness of the issue.
"I’m lucky to be alive," Kennedy told the Lennox Herald last week. "I may never be as healthy or as strong as I was, but I'm still here with my family and that is very precious to me."
The grandfather said that he first realised something was wrong when he noticed a tiny blister developing on his thumb, right near the nail. It didn't seem much at first, but he went to the doctor to get it checked out anyway, at which point he was given some antibiotics and told that it was probably a simple infection.
Within days, though, Kennedy was fighting for his life after the infection spread up his arms and chest, causing painful open sores to spring up across his body. He was rushed to hospital immediately by ambulance, at which point he was informed that he had sepsis.
"I didn’t think for a second that the cut on my thumb was the cause of it all. It was tiny," he said.
"I had bitten my nail like that hundreds of times before so to think it almost killed me is terrifying.
"I was in so much pain, I couldn’t move. I thought I was having a heart attack and I really did think I was going to die."
The 57-year-old was in so much pain at the time he was taken in for treatment that he doesn't really remember what happened.
"I don’t remember a thing from when I was first taken to hospital. All I can remember is asking a nurse if I was going to die. It was a terrible time and you sink into a depression being stuck in hospital for that long. I just wanted to come home but we were so lucky to have so many people visit and help us through it."
Fortunately, he had his wife, Ghislaine, by his side the whole time - and he credits he phoning the ambulance with saving his life.
Still, the trauma is not over for Kennedy. He still has to have major surgery on his collarbone to replace the eroded bones, and lives with severe pain every day. Thankfully, he has a positive attitude towards his recovery, and says that his church community are helping him through it.
Though it may sound extreme, sepsis is not actually a rare condition. In fact, somebody dies every 3.5 seconds from the illness worldwide.
It's caused by the body attacking itself after contracting an infection - usually through an open wound, much like the ones Kennedy had around his nails from biting on them so often.
Thankfully, it is treatable if caught in time. Just keep a close eye out for symptoms (which are similar to those of flu), make sure any open wounds clean and free from risk of infection, and seek medical treatment as soon as possible if you think you might be in danger.