The incredible moment a husband signed “I love you” to his wife as he fought for his life was caught on camera.
Roy Norquoy, 46, was struck down by toxic shock syndrome after mistakenly thinking he had hurt his right shoulder in the gym, ending up in a week-long coma after this developed into deadly sepsis.
But, amazingly, the pier master, from the Scottish island of Orkney, had only told his wife Sarah, 47, he loved her a handful of times before making the dramatic declaration from his hospital bed.
Housing support officer Sarah said: “Even though we’ve just been married for six years, he doesn’t say the three magic words very often, although he shows me how much he adores me.
“So, this really was the most memorable moment of my whole life.
“I’d just been told he could die, so hearing – or at least seeing him sign - ‘I love you,’ moments later, was magical.”
Roy first developed the tell-tale signs of toxic shock syndrome - caused by bacteria that normally live harmlessly on the skin, nose or mouth, getting deeper into the body and releasing toxins that can damage skin and organs – in March 2015, when his right shoulder started hurting after a gym session.
This then developed into sepsis – a rare but sometimes lethal complication of an infection – within hours of being admitted to hospital.
Roy, who was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) - a chronic, inflammatory disease, causing the body’s immune system to attack normal liver cells, in 2013, was mindful of his condition and knew he was more likely to become unwell.
“AIH meant Roy would feel unwell sporadically but he was keen on keeping fit and was training for a half marathon, so was going to the gym a lot,” recalled Sarah.
“He came home one day and said he’d really hurt his shoulder. We just assumed it was muscle strain, but that night he went to bed early in a fair bit of pain.”
But Roy woke in the middle of the night, shivering and in agony.
Sarah said: “We called the non-emergency NHS number and were advised to call his GP in the morning, but he woke up in a terrible way. He couldn’t even dress himself and was in agony.
“Putting him into the car, I remember thinking, ‘He’s going to die’.
“He was being sick, his eyes were rolling backwards in his head and wasn’t able to speak.
“I thought it was to do with his AIH condition at first.”
His GP immediately called an ambulance and Sarah was told by the medic that Roy had toxic shock syndrome, a rare but life-threatening condition.
Rushed to the Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall, Orkney’s capital 20 miles away from their home in Quoyloo, Roy was taken into his own room, because the hospital doesn’t have an intensive care unit.
Meanwhile, Sarah was ushered to a private family room and told her husband’s condition was deteriorating rapidly.
Doctors said the AIH was not related to his condition, but it made the sepsis more difficult to treat.
Distraught, she phoned his close family – telling his sisters Sandra Higgins and Linda Norquoy and his children from a previous marriage, Ali, 28, Benny, 26, and Gareth, 24, to tell them the news.
“Roy was getting worse and worse before my eyes,” she continued.
“I was texting all my friends, telling them Roy was critically ill and asking them to pray for him.
“Doctors said he needed to go to a critical care department in a hospital on the mainland, 155 miles away. But they were worried he was too ill to move.
“That’s when I was told every breath he took could be his last, so they wanted to put him into a coma to allow his body to conserve his strength.”
Unsure how long Roy would be unconscious for, devastated Sarah told him she loved him and that everything would be ok, before he was put into an induced coma at 3pm on March 19, six hours after his hospital admission.
That night, he was flown by a hospital helicopter to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, with his close family and friends visiting him before he flew.
“Just before he went, with tears in my eyes, I kissed his forehead and told him I’d see him tomorrow,” Sarah said.
“I didn’t say goodbye to him, that was too final. ”
Sarah then took a boat to the mainland the following day, with friend Carrie, 47, arriving in the evening.
At Raigmore Hospital, doctors confirmed that Roy’s toxic shock syndrome had developed into sepsis. He also had multiple organ failure and pneumonia.
“When people normally think of toxic shock, they think of it being caused by tampons, but doctors thought Roy had some kind of infection in his right shoulder,” Sarah added.
“They said he was in a really bad way and I should prepare myself for the worst.”
Sarah, who has two children Katie, 23 and Elliot, 17, from a previous marriage, remembered seeing Roy, lying in a hospital bed, covered in wires.
She said: “His eyes were moving, but it was heartbreaking to see the man you love, your soulmate, like that.
“Still, I wanted to keep things normal, and for Roy to hear my voice.”
Sarah, who met Roy at church in 2008, could not face losing her husband after such a short time together.
“The medics had said they didn’t know how long he would live, but I truly didn’t know what I would do if I lost him,” she added.
“It took us so long to find each other, I couldn’t believe he could be taken from me so quickly.”
But, to her astonishment, just a few minutes into her visit, Roy started pointing to his stomach.
“The Orkney word for stomach is ‘puggy’, so I said, ‘Is your puggy sore?’” she continued. “He simply shook his head.
“I asked, ‘Do you need a nurse?’ Then he started lifting his finger up and pointing at me.
“I asked, ‘What are you saying?’ Then, as he did it again, I understood. He was signalling, ‘I love you.’
“I called out, ‘He said he loves me!’ Tears were running down my cheek, I couldn’t believe it.”
Filled with hope, for the next seven days, Sarah stayed at his bedside as Roy lay motionless in a coma as people came to see him.
“I didn’t want people to say goodbye, we all said ‘where there’s life, there’s hope’, so that’s how we thought,” Sarah said.
Then, a week later, doctors said Roy’s progress meant he could be brought out of his coma.
Sarah recalled: “He was brought round on his own, away from me, so when I went in to see him a few hours later, I was so excited to see him awake.”
Taking small steps, Roy started to recover, slowly, in hospital.
“Roy is so strong and determined and was desperate to get well again,” Sarah, who stayed on the mainland in accommodation provided by the hospital, said.
“But, to this day we still have no idea how he got sepsis.”
With the help of physiotherapy and bedrest, Roy was allowed home, two weeks after being brought out of his coma and has now made a full recovery.
Roy said: “I have no recollection of what happened to me, so watching the video of me signalling ‘I love you’ is like watching someone else.
“Our Christian faith has been such a huge part of this journey and what has kept us strong.”