A family who spent weeks waiting for critically ill drummer Sam Boughen to write his first words on a special app as he came out of a coma were stunned they were asked to order drumsticks – from KFC.
The 26-year-old overcame a catalogue of illnesses thanks to expert medical care, a liver donor and the support of his family, who were at his bedside as he came back from the edge of death.
The Glastonbury-based musician proved his sense of humour had survived his terrible ordeal by making his first words a cheeky order for some fried chicken instead of a message of love to his devoted family.
Sam went through two liver transplants in three months after being diagnosed with liver disease as the result of a genetic disorder.
His father, Martin Boughen, 53, donated 60 per cent of his liver in January to save his son’s life but two days after he was discharged from hospital, Sam began to feel unwell.
A blocked artery meant that Sam’s new liver was not getting enough blood. Shortly afterwards, the family’s worse fears were confirmed – Sam’s new liver had failed.
“Within hours, I was classed as critically ill,” said Sam. “Twenty-four hours after that, I was on life support.”
Sam went back onto the transplant list, and his family were told to prepare themselves for the worst.
In the early hours of April 15, a new liver was found from a donor. His exhausted body endured a nine-hour operation.
Shortly afterwards, doctors discovered Sam had an e.coli infection, as well as a life-threatening lung infection.
Doctors were forced to play a balancing game with his medication as the drugs that could treat the lung infection put his new liver at risk.
Again, his family were told to expect the worst, and Sam remained in a coma for eight days until he stabilised.
But as he came round it was clear the effects of his near-death experience had a massive psychological effect.
He spent three weeks in a psychotic state before he managed to bring himself back to reality.
“It was my daughter, Lottie,” said Sam. “I just needed to get back for her.”
A tracheotomy left him unable to speak, and he used his iPhone to communicate with his family, who rarely left his side at the hospital.
“We had an app that meant he could write what he wanted to say,” said dad Martin.
“We all held our breath the first time he started writing. We thought he would tell us that he loved us, but instead he asked for a KFC.
“Then we knew we had Sam back, along with his sense of humour.”
Not keen on hospital food, friends and family couriered rolls from Burns the Bread to help him put weight back on.
Sam is now back in Glastonbury with his fiancée, Saffron and daughter Lottie.
He goes back to Kings College Hospital in London once a week where his progress is monitored. He hopes to be able to write to the family of the person whose liver gave him life.
As well as the support from medical professionals at Kings College and Derriford hospital in Plymouth, Sam and Martin have also received huge support from the local community, including Sam’s bosses at Strode College, and Martin’s employers at Thales.
While Sam and his family are all exhausted by the events of the last six months, Sam has plenty to look forward to.
He is due to marry Saffron next year and hopes to return to his beloved drum kits soon, with a view to touring with his friend Nick Parker in Germany at the end of this year.
“It’s a sad statistic that while 96 per cent of the population would accept an organ if they needed one, only 30 per cent of the population are registered as organ donors,” said Martin.