In February 2021 Malcolm started to feel unwell. “One day I was fine and the next day I wasn’t,” he said.

At first, he thought he had overexerted himself when clearing out his house. “I felt really drained and tired and horrible,” Malcolm said. This became a high temperature and then night sweats. At first Malcolm thought he had Covid-19 as this was the early stage of the pandemic, but every Covid-19 test he took came back negative.

Malcolm visited his local hospital and was told that he had Covid-19 and should go home and rest. Unfortunately, his symptoms, which started off very similar to those of Covid-19 or a very heavy flu, increased in severity over the next two weeks.

Malcolm had Rigors (attacks of shaking, brought on by a high temperature), temperatures of 40 degrees, night sweats that meant that some nights he had to change the bed sheets two or three times, headaches that were so bad that he couldn’t even watch TV and a loss of appetite. “He was just so so ill,” Malcolm’s partner Catherine said. “We just didn’t know who to turn to.”

After his symptoms became a lot worse, Malcolm’s GP sent him back to the hospital where he was finally diagnosed with endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner wall of the heart and it can be very dangerous.

Endocarditis can occur in people who have had a valve in their heart replaced, which was the case with Malcolm. His heart treatment journey began when he was a child. “I was diagnosed when I was ten years old with aortic stenosis,” he said. From then on, he was closely monitored.

In 2008, Malcolm had a heart valve replaced, during a routine operation, at Royal Brompton Hospital when he was 29. After this, Malcolm returned to being physically active and was able to run his first marathon in 2016.

Malcolm’s health was fine between then and 2021, and he ran several more marathons. However, in early 2021 he began to suffer with the symptoms of endocarditis to the point where it dominated his life.

“I don't feel that endocarditis is spoken about enough,” Malcolm said. He added that he was  informed in passing about the condition and the only details he was given was that he would require antibiotic cover for any major dental work, and it was a slight risk following his heart valve replacement. “I was totally blasé about it and it was never really mentioned again,” he said.

I want to highlight that endocarditis is extremely serious if caught. It should be mentioned at check-ups. I want to create awareness of endocarditis so that people don’t go through what I went through.

“If people are armed with the facts about endocarditis and routinely reminded about it if they are at risk, they will know more what to look out for and when to seek medical advice,” Catherine added.

Malcolm’s local hospital transferred him to Royal Brompton where he was treated as an emergency patient. Malcolm needed open heart surgery and his pulmonary valve needed to be replaced. A study has found that 65% of people who suffer with endocarditis need heart surgery to repair the damage.

Fortunately, the surgery was a success, despite his endocarditis being acute. When his damaged heart valve was removed the deterioration was so severe, Malcolm was told  it looked like a caterpillar had eaten a leaf.” Due to the damage to the valve, he also suffered a Pulmonary Embolism, which is a very dangerous occurrence.

Malcolm praised the care he received at Royal Brompton Hospital. “They saved my life,” he said. “Each and every nurse and staff member tried their hardest and gave me their best.” Catherine also mentioned that the surgeon called her with an update after the surgery, which she appreciated.

Following the surgery, Malcolm was faced with a long journey of recovery that he is still on. He spent two weeks post-surgery at Royal Brompton and then a further two weeks at his local hospital for more IV antibiotics He returned home on 7 April, six weeks after being admitted, at which point due to the Covid restrictions, he hadn’t seen any family or friends or been outside other than for transfers between hospitals.

Over two years later, Malcolm is still recovering from endocarditis. “I am now back running, but not at the capacity I was,” he said. Before having endocarditis, Malcolm was running marathons and his best time was under three and a half hours. After being sick, he had to begin training from the beginning again with the NHS’s Couch to 5k program.

Malcolm has signed up to run the Ealing Half Marathon this year, his first half marathon since the illness, for Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity. He said that getting in shape to run the half marathon, which he has run many times before, getting very close to breaking 90 minutes on one occasion, “will be a big big challenge” this time around. Catherine described this as Malcolm’s “comeback run.”

Malcolm said endocarditis is not spoken enough about for people who have had heart valve replacements. He wants to raise more awareness, as he initially assumed he had a bad case of the flu after his Covid-19 tests were negative. Malcolm did not realise the problem could have been his heart. “Going through what I went through, I wish I had known more about endocarditis,” he said.

As he is still recovering, Malcolm wanted to encourage other people who have suffered from endocarditis that they can get better even if it’s a long journey back to health. “It’s not easy. I’ve had some dark days in the last couple of years,” he said. “I’m still not fully recovered. Everyday I’m getting a little bit stronger and a little bit better.”

Catherine wanted to stress that people with endocarditis should “be kind to yourself” and look after their mental health, as critical illness can have a big impact on mental health as well as physical health.

If you would like to support Malcolm in running the Ealing Half Marathon, then you can donate to his fundraising page below: