Inside TV legend John Burgess’ near-death horror during sepsis

Legendary Australian television presenter John Burgess is candid about the tough battle with sepsis that nearly cost him his life.

The 79-year-old, who famously hosted Wheel of Fortune in the 1980s and 1990s, contracted the illness from a mysterious infection in February.

Within hours, Mr. Burgess went from mild flu symptoms following a shingles vaccination to near death and intensive care at the Royal Perth Hospital.

Inside TV legend John Burgess' near-death horror during sepsis

“At first, I might have felt a little nauseous, a little sleepy, joint pain, and soon I felt like I was going to throw up,” he said.

“That was at 7 am,  and at 7:30 am, I couldn’t get off the toilet, so my second son had to lift me off the bathroom and carry me to the bedroom.

Camera icon John Burgess battled sepsis earlier this year. Credit: News Corp Australia

“I just thought, as most guys do, ‘It’ll be fine, I’ll just take some Panadol,’ but I fainted a bit, and luckily my wife remembered to call an ambulance.”

Burgess described how his medical ordeal worsened dramatically after he was rushed to the hospital.

“I was probably in the ambulance for almost an hour, and they stabilized me with whatever,” he said.

“Again, I just kept passing out or dozing off, one of the two, and they said, ‘John, John, wake up,’ and they took me to the Royal Perth Hospital emergency department.

“I was there about five or six hours before they put me in ICU.

“So from waking up at 7 am to about 5:30 in the afternoon, I went from home to the ICU, and I was there for four days, and they just pumped me full of antibiotics.”

Burgess attributes his survival to the fact that his wife called an ambulance soon after symptoms developed and to the care he received at the hospital.

Camera icon Host John Burgess and hostess Adriana Xenides on the set of Channel 7 TV show Wheel of Fortune in 1987. Credit: News Corp Australia

“You must stop the spread of this infection because the onset is fast. That’s the problem,” he said.

“Many people who get these symptoms don’t do anything about it.”

In the months since his fight, Mr. Burgess has still experienced a host of lingering side effects, but he has returned to some media duties on Perth TV and radio.

“I’ve dealt with the issues, but sometimes I forget things. You know, someone will tell me something,” he said.

‘My hair is falling out too; not too bad, but it started a bit faster than usual, but they warned me about that.

“I don’t have the energy; I wake up in the morning feeling pretty good, but by lunchtime, I’m like, ‘Hmm, I’d better lie down,’ he said.

Mr. Burgess has since pledged to raise awareness of sepsis and its symptoms in Australia, in addition to publishing the Sepsis Clinical Care Standard on Thursday.

Camera IconTV personality John Burgess says his wife helped Jan save his life. Credit: News Corp Australia

The standard ensures that a patient with signs and symptoms of sepsis receives optimal care, from the onset of symptoms to hospital discharge and follow-up care.

“(It is important) to be associated with the launch of the Clinical Standard of Care for Sepsis, which I think is a fantastic initiative to spread the word about an extremely dangerous condition, which, if not treated early, can lead to tragic conditions.” h, said.

“As a survivor, I applaud everyone involved. I think it’s a great initiative. To get the word out there.

“You know, as I said, that’s a concern and something that people don’t know much about. I mean, more people die from sepsis than from car accidents.”

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition when the body’s response to an infection damages its tissues and organs.

There are more than 55,000 cases of sepsis and 8,700 sepsis-related deaths in people of all ages in Australia each year.

Lori J. Kile
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