by Gerry Warren
A dog-loving dad died from a rare infection just three days after being nipped on the finger by his pet terrier.
Popular father-of-two Gary Dickinson suffered septic shock caused by a deadly bacteria but was initially sent away from hospital with a remedy for food poisoning.
Now his partner has spoken of her horror as she watched the infection take hold of the 57-year-old plasterer who is said to have loved animals and the outdoors.
Michelle Dickinson, 39, of Woodside Road, Sturry, described what happened at an inquest into his death, which a coroner determined was an accident.
The mum-of-four said Mr Dickinson had agreed to take in a dog from a family member which had been ‘a bit too lively’ around children.
The couple already had a Jack Russell cross and when the two started fighting, Mr Dickinson reached down to pick up the newcomer.
She said: “I heard him call out, ‘she’s just nipped me’ but it was no more than that.
“But at 4am the next morning he was sick and didn’t go to work the next day.
“That evening about 6pm he went downhill again but just told me he would be fine.
“But it worried me, so I phoned for an ambulance which took him to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital.
Michelle and Gary Dickinson. Gary died after being bitten by a dog
“We only saw an on-call GP and mentioned the dog nip but she thought it was food poisoning and sent him away after giving him an injection for his sickness.
“But at about 1.30pm, he woke up shouting ‘I can’t feel my fingers or feet’. I jumped up and turned on the light and saw his skin was purple.”
The coroner was told that Mr Dickinson was rushed to the QEQM Hospital at Margate where he was taken into intensive care and put on antibiotics.
In a statement to the hearing, critical care consultant Dr Barclay Tofte said Mr Dickinson had been admitted with information about a dog bite and was treated with antibiotics and given life support.
After the hearing Mrs Dickinson said: “They didn’t know what kind of infection it was but initially told us he would be all right.
“To be fair the doctors were really good at keeping us informed and told us he was being kept sedated to help him fight the infection.
“It was about 5am when they said it was okay for me to go home to sort my children out but I hadn’t been gone 10 minutes when Gary’s son Ashley called me and said I had better get back here.
“I don’t think it hit any of us just how poorly he was until the doctors said we should contact other family members. I held him and then I knew I was losing him.”
Mrs Dickinson is questioning whether crucial time was lost at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital when he was sent away with the wrong diagnosis.
She added: “We have not made any formal complaint but we will never know whether those few hours would have made a difference if he had got antibiotics earlier.”
She said she was still devastated by the loss of her partner who she had first met when they were just 19 years old.
Speaking from the home they shared in Woodside Road, Sturry, she said: “He had asked me out but I refused and we went out separate ways in life and had families.
“But we met up again as friends about six years ago and had been together for four years.
He was my soulmate and we adored each other."
Mrs Dickinson said the dog which nipped him was no longer with the family but had been taken to a re-homing centre.
She added: “I don’t blame the dog and they say the infection is rare in humans."