Inside the near horror of TV legend John Burgess’ death during sepsis


Legendary Australian TV host John Burgess has recalled his battle in intensive care with the disease that nearly killed him.

Legendary Australian TV host John Burgess has opened up about the severe battle with sepsis that nearly killed him.

The 79-year-old, who hosted Wheel of Fortune in the 1980s and 90s, contracted the disease from a mysterious infection in February.

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

“At first I felt maybe a little nauseous, a little sleepy, pain in the joints and very quickly I felt like I was going to vomit,” he said.

“It was seven in the morning and at 7.30am I couldn’t get out of the toilet, so my second son had to lift me from the toilet and carry me into the bedroom.

“I was just thinking, like most guys do, ‘I’ll be fine, I’m just going to take some Panadol’ but I was passing out and luckily my wife thought to call an ambulance.”

Mr Burgess went on to describe how his medical ordeal worsened significantly after he was rushed to hospital.

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

“Again I kept passing out or falling asleep, one of them and they were like ‘John, John, wake up’ and they took me to the emergency department of the Royal Perth Hospital.

“I was there for about five or six hours before they put me in intensive care.

“So from waking up at seven in the morning to about 5:30 in the afternoon, I went from the house to the ICU and was there for four days and they just stuffed me with antibiotics.”

Mr Burgess attributes his survival to his wife who called an ambulance so soon after the onset of symptoms and the treatment he received in hospital.

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

“A lot of people who have these kinds of symptoms don’t do anything about it.”

In the months following his battle, Mr Burgess continued to experience myriad ongoing side effects, but resumed some media duties at Perth television and radio.

“I mean, I dealt with the issues, but sometimes I forget things. You know, someone is going to tell me something,” he said.

“My hair is falling out too; not so bad, but definitely started out a little faster than normal, but they warned me about it.

“I have no energy for it; I wake up in the morning feeling pretty good, but come lunchtime I’m thinking, ‘Hmm, I better lay down,’” he said.

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

He is part of the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare.

The standard ensures that a patient with signs and symptoms of sepsis receives optimal care, from symptom onset through hospital discharge and survivorship care.

“(It’s important) to be associated with the launch of the standard of clinical care for sepsis, which I think is a fantastic initiative, to raise awareness of an extremely dangerous disease which, if not treated early, can lead to tragic circumstances,” he said.

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

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

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

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

For more information on sepsis and the Australian Healthcare Safety and Quality Commission, visit:


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