Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell was forced to pull out of a book tour this week after he collapsed and was rushed to hospital suffering a severe attack of infective dysentery.
The ex-No10 press officer has lost more than a stone in weight after trying to work through the illness which twice resulted in an ambulance being called to his home in North London.
Neighbours revealed an ambulance crew and paramedics rushed to Campbell’s home last week after he collapsed in the street with a temperature nearing the mid 40s.
He was rushed to the Royal Free Hospital on Monday after medics warned he was at risk doing serious lasting damage to his health unless he slowed down.
The author and consultant was kept in isolation because of the severity of the infection, identified as shigella sonnei.
Even caterers and cleaners had to take special measures before entering his room.
Only his partner Fiona Millar and their three grown up children were allowed to visit during his four day stay, a hospital source confirmed.
Campbell, 56, was discharged late on Thursday night and returned home.
Neighbours told how the normally-fit runner looked thin, gaunt and had to be helped from a car.
Speaking through an entry phone intercom at his home in Gospel Oak, north London yesterday he said: “I’m fine, though I feel a bit like I have been run over by a lorry.
“I honestly thought I just had a very high temperature and a bit of diarrhoea and that it would pass. I had no idea it was so serious.
“It was a bit of a shock when they said dysentery and an even bigger shock when they said how bad it had got.
“The doctors and nurses and everyone else at the hospital were just brilliant, truly brilliant. It annoys the hell out of me the way the government and the media are on this anti NHS kick at the moment. They were fantastic.
“You don’t expect to get dysentery in North West London. I am used to mental illness because of my depressions but I have never had a physical illness as bad as this. It was pretty grim. I would not wish it on anyone.”
Campbell would not come to the door and did not want to be interviewed or photographed.
He added: “I am sorry but I am really tired. I’ve lost a lot of weight and strength and have been told just to rest for a few days, though I hope to be at Labour’s conference at some point.”
Campbell is scheduled to do a series of fringe events for Alcohol Concern at both main party conferences aimed at forcing a tougher Government strategy to combat alcohol misuse.
He said he was hoping to be fit enough to promote his new novel, ‘My Name Is’, about a young alcoholic woman, following the book launch last week.
“It has been frustrating but I should have listened to my body in the first place,” revealing he had cancelled a week-long media and events schedule due to the state of his health.
A neighbour, who witnessed him collapse, revealed Campbell had resisted hospitalisation because he was due at Sir David Frost’s private family funeral in Oxfordshire the following morning.
He said: “They got his temperature down a bit, and he filled himself with Imodium, and got driven down there. He looked absolutely wretched when they got back.”
Campbell’s twitter feed reveals he kept up quite a punishing schedule last week despite his illness.
It was only when he tweeted that he was too ill to take part in the 100 mile Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research bikeathon on Sunday – he chairs their fundraising arm – that it was clear he had to slow down.
A hospital source said: “He saw a specialist on the Monday morning and was taken straight in for a day of of tests, including a colonoscopy.”
Campbell’s diaries reveal a history of stomach and colon problems, including ulcerative colitis.
He travels extensively as a political consultant and international public speaker and has been particularly active in the Balkans.
Campbell also advised the government of Kosovo on relations with Serbia and the EU. He last tweeted being in Tirana two weeks ago.
Experts fear the timing of the trip would be consistent with him picking up the illness there then, though he has also recently been to both Africa and Asia.
Family friend Victoria Bridge said “Fiona is always telling him to slow down but he has a lot of energy and seems to be as busy as ever.
“They have lived here for twenty years and are very popular in the street so people have been a bit worried, especially when the ambulances were out and then hearing he was isolated with a mystery illness and nobody seemed to know what it was for a while and we were told no visits.”
A spokeswoman for Penguin Random House said: “We had to cancel a number of long arranged media engagements and public events and signings when Alastair was taken ill and hospitalised.
“We did not feel we had to give any detail on his illness though Alastair was tweeting that he was under the weather.”
It is not known if, as in previous years, Campbell has helped write Ed Miliband’s conference speech.
A party spokesman said: “We wish him a speedy recovery from what sounds a nasty illness and hope to see him in Brighton. He is due to speak at fringe meetings and also host a party fundraiser.”