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Jack Leach feared for his life after contracting sepsis in New Zealand

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

England spinner Jack Leach has admitted that he feared for his life after contracting sepsis on the tour of New Zealand earlier this winter.

The 28-year-old suffers from Crohn’s disease and his immune system is weakened by the medication he takes. He initially contracted gastroenteritis after the first Test of the two-match series with the Black Caps and was later hospitalised with sepsis, which is a potentially fatal illness caused by the immune system’s extreme reaction to an infection.

“I didn’t know too much about it at the time, how serious it could be, but I remember feeling very, very ill,” Leach told Press Association.

“I remember thinking, ‘Don’t fall asleep because you might not wake up’. It was that serious in terms of how I was feeling.

“I was out of it, really. My blood pressure was dropping quickly, my heart-rate was 190 and my temperature was 40 degrees. That’s when they called an ambulance and got me to hospital.

“Once I got there, got the antibiotics in my arm and on to a drip, I started to feel better quite quickly but it still took a couple of nights in hospital and I was probably still recovering when I flew back from New Zealand. It took longer to get over than I thought.”

Leach travelled with England for their subsequent tour of South Africa but was struck down by a bug that swept through the side, and he returned home prior to the third Test of the series, which England won 3-1.

“I picked up a couple of things out there and my body couldn’t cope with it,” Leach added.

“Other people got ill but I struggled to fight it off as well as a healthy person. The medication I’m on for Crohn’s weakens my immune system, so it is just a bit more of a struggle.”

Leach is now with England in Sri Lanka, where they will play two Tests as part of the World Test Championship later this month. With the current global outbreak of the coronavirus, safety precautions are being taken, with Joe Root confirming that players will not shake hands but instead bump fists on the tour to help prevent the spread of germs. Players have also been handed immunity packs with anti-bacterial wipes and gels. For Leach, Sri Lanka appears to be a safer environment, with one case of COVID-19 in the country in comparison to over 50 in the UK.

“I’ve come to a safer place. I’ve been nervous in England but I feel fine here,” said Leach, who is also currently dealing with a calf niggle.

“I guess I am a little bit more concerned than others. These things affect the older generation a bit more but with the medication I’m on, my immune system might be similar to that. We’ve been given packs to use with wipes, hand-sanitiser, we’re drinking bottled water. I just have to do the right things and keep my fingers crossed.

“I had a little setback with my calf a couple of weeks ago but I’m recovering well. I’m still maybe a little bit off but we’ve got a bit of time, so it’s about progressively getting back. I’ll be bowling in training and see how we go. The main part of the tour is two Test matches and I’ll be doing everything I can to be back for them.”

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