THE STORY OF MY HEALTH - as told by updates as they were posted on this web site


 
Posted on October 8th 2005  

On July 6th 2005 I suffered a massive virus attack on my heart. 

Medical speak states that,

"sudden cardiac death can occur in people.. with the condition known as acute myocarditis, a rare condition, often caused by the Coxsackie B virus. This may lead to unanticipated life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms with few early warning signs of the condition. This is generally referred to as sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS)".

I was initially in the Ulster hospital on the outskirts of Belfast for a day and a half, and then rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. First to intensive care and then to the heart ward on the 5th floor. After intensive investigation the hospital doctors told Linda that a Coxsackie B virus had greatly damaged my heart, that my liver was "shot to pieces" and my kidneys were closing down. Answering Linda's questions they said that there was no cure and that they were keeping me alive "15 minutes at a time" and that if the family wanted to say 'goodbye' they should be contacted immediately. Shortly after making the phone calls Linda collapsed, and we thank God for the CRi team members and friends who were there to help her.

A two minute extract from ministry team leader Anne Galway taken from her teaching 'Truth and lies'

When Linda regained some composure she went to the family who were now waiting in the hospital restaurant and told them the news. She then declared through tears that whether I lived or died the family would praise the Lord.

Meanwhile, the Consultant had contacted Freeman's hospital at Newcastle upon Tyne, one of the UK's heart transplant hospitals, and they agreed to receive me. The consultant told Linda that a heart transplant might possibly save my life

However this was the day of the London bombings and UK planes were grounded.

Undeterred the medical staff phoned around Europe for two hours determined to fight for my life.

An air ambulance was finally called in from Luxemburg to Belfast, and now, in an induced coma, and attached to a heavy balloon pump to keep my heart going I was flown to Freeman's Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne.  The doctors told Linda that I might not even survive the flight.

My wife and four children and my two sisters followed via normal scheduled flights.

On arrival at Freeman's Hospital the doctors told the family that they would do what they could but that I was 'on a knife edge'. 

For five days I lay unconscious on life support.

My wife, eldest son, and my two sisters kept vigil, speaking to me and playing Christian music. The rest of the family waited every day in the waiting room, only seeing me when I eventually became conscious.

Peter Horrobin, of Ellel International Ministries, along with his wife Fiona, drove from Lancaster to Newcastle for a full morning and prayed for me. Apparently I appeared to be responding to his prayers, but sadly I have no conscious recollection of any thing during the first five days.

The wonderful team of doctors at Freeman's then decided to gradually bring me out of the induced coma, and slowly, very slowly and rather dramatically I became conscious again. (During this journey back to consciousness I experienced terrifying hallucinations for many hours, due I presume, to the drugs I had been given), and after some tests they declared that there appeared to be no brain damage through oxygen deficiency.

When I finally came to my full senses, my wife and eldest son explained to me that I was in Newcastle upon Tyne now, and this took some coming to terms with.

Out for an hour I was in intensive care for a further week and during that week the Presence of God was on my life like 'Holy Fire'. Indeed my spirit was on fire for God with the greatest intensity I have ever known and my mind was razor sharp despite my body being very very weak. Thus I was clearly doing better than expected and a heart transplant was no longer regarded as an immediate option. 

Three days after coming off life support, Linda asked if  I could be taken outside to feel the sunshine and the doctors graciously agreed. It took a long time to get me out of bed with all the support equipment but it was one of the major turning points. When I felt the sunshine on my face I knew that I would live. 

Thank you Newcastle upon Tyne staff. Your care was over and above the call of duty!

Lear jet arriving at Belfast City Airport Ken on baord Lear Jet
Sister meeting me coming off the plane
Ambulance at airport
The arrival home at Belfast City Airport

Two weeks after admission to Freeman's Hospital I was flown back to Belfast City Airport in another Lear Jet, along with a doctor and nurse. Amazingly, my sister Jill got permission to go out on to the airfield (escorted of course) to meet me as I got off this luxurious little jet plane that superstars own or hire for their holidays!  Linda had already arrived at the airport a little earlier by regular service, and as she watched from the airport window she was in tears watching 'the little plane bringing her husband home.' The heavy life support machine that I had been attached to going to Newcastle upon Tyne was brought back to Belfast on the same plane, and it was quite an effort for the ambulance men to get it into the waiting ambulance. The ambulance then collected Linda outside the airport took us straight to the Royal Hospital in Belfast where I remained for the next six weeks.

There I was told that I was a very sick man and that any improvement - which could not be guaranteed - would be over a long period of time. Despite surviving what was expected to be a quick and certain death, the virus had caused viral myocarditis, atrial fibrillation, impaired kidney function and congestive heart failure'.

Fluid retention was a big issue and my ankles were very swollen and I will never forget the hours that my wife and my two sisters spent gently massaging my swollen feet.

The first four weeks back in the Royal Victoria Hospital were very difficult - especially the nights. 

My faithful wife was there not only during the days - morning and then again in the afternoon - but for four weeks she also sat / slept in an armchair at my bedside throughout the nights tending me every time I became distressed at not being able to breathe properly, or vomiting.  

I will never forget her sacrificial love for me. Never.

I took this picture on my mobile phone one night when she was asleep.

I had 3 hours of kidney dialysis every two days (that's what the tubes in my neck are for!) I lost nearly two stone in weight and had little strength in my body, but a great faith that God would restore me. 

Every day I tried to walk up and down the corridor outside the room but for weeks I could only manage short walks with the aid of a walking stick and someone holding my arm. Linda and I then felt that the Lord was telling us to take communion every evening and we started to do this. Immediately there was a noticeable change in my heath for the better. Suddenly my kidneys started to function and I was rather dramatically taken of dialysis right in the middle of one of the 3 hour sessions. 

 I confess that I wept as the tubes were finally removed from my neck.   

Some two weeks later I was moved from the private room into an open ward used for short term hospital stays.

Such was my radical improvement in wellbeing that one nurse, after introducing herself, said 'so you are the miracle man'

Just days short of two calendar months from the date that the virus struck I was discharged from hospital!  I had 'pestered' every doctor and the consultant to let me out of hospital - no matter what the consequences were for me - and eventually, and reluctantly - he agreed to release me on September 3rd, just two weeks away. On that day he tried to convince me to want to stay, telling me that I was still a 'medium risk', but I could not wait to escape!

(additional entry: The consultant told me at my first check up in April 2006 that when I left hospital on September 3rd, my ejection fraction was 10% which means that my heart was only pumping 10% of its atrial chamber volume, barely enough to stay alive on!)

The first week I was out I showed up at our ministry's weekly training night for half and hour - much to the surprise and joy of the team.  I was putting down a marker in the spiritual realm and the following two training nights I not only showed up, but did an hour's teaching. Sitting down the first time, but standing for an hour the second time. 

Now I am back teaching on a weekly basis. 

The first week I was out from hospital I went to church on the Sunday morning and when the Pastor announced that I was in the church the 400 + people applauded. It was very moving. 

I am now back at church every week.

My youngest son went to Ellel Pierrepont to do the 8 month NETS school on October 7th and while in hospital my prayer was that I would be well enough to go fishing with 'my buddy' one more time before he left home. 

Three weeks after my discharge I was able to take my wife and son on a two day fishing trip where I drove 85 miles to our accommodation by the lakeside, fished for two days and did the rowing on the lakes both days!

My brother in law who has been a Senior Biological Scientist at the Royal hospital for some 39 years - and the one who conducted the initial blood tests to identify the virus - spoke to me by phone when I was at Newcastle. 

No less than six times he exclaimed that the fact that I was alive was 'miraculous'.

When he saw me four weeks after my discharge he declared that I was a 'modern day miracle'  Remarkable for someone who is not yet a Christian!

My family were overwhelmed by the prayer response and with the emails of love and encouragement from the Body of Christ world wide.

Ireland, Canada, Ecuador, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa, Hungary, Poland, England, Scotland, to name but a few.. 

Thank you one and all who prayed for me and for my family.

' No weapon formed against you shall prosper'  Isaiah 54:17


Posted October 21st 2005

Another little miracle occurred last Friday.  I had been warned to be on my guard against mouth infections and suddenly I was had a painfully inflamed gum. Healing evangelist Bill Prankard from Canada was speaking in our church over the weekend and I went with my daughter on the Friday evening to hear him. As I parked outside the church I was in pain, and could barely touch the inflamed gum, so I determined to go the dentist when they reopened on Monday. However that appointment was never needed as during the service Bill put his finger into the right hand side his mouth and said "God is healing someone's mouth right here", and it was me! Instantly my inflamed gum was healed.  I bit my teeth together, tapped my gum with my finger but not one painful sensation could I muster.

God is watching over me!


Posted November 22nd 2005

I feel as though I can now outwalk just about anybody, up hill and down dale with no ill effects at all!  Linda and I flew to Ellel Pierrepont to visit our son who is doing NETS and on a long walk through the local countryside he asked me to slow down!  Truly remarkable.  (though I was very tired for several days when I got home) Even before my 6 month review at the hospital -due March/April - my own doctor has taken me off all iron tablets since my blood count is now excellent (15+, when it was only 6.1 when I came off life support!) 

I have been taken off the twice weekly injections plus another daily tablet for my kidneys since the readings are so good.  When I came out of hospital I had lost two stone in weight.  All that weight is back on - plus a pound or two more. For the first time in my life I am considering a diet! Praise God for energy and strength.  The team and I are now preparing a normal 2006 calendar except that it may well be the busiest year yet!

God is SO good.


Posted December 8th 2005

The big test came this week when on Sunday I flew to London, then travelled to Ellel Pierrepont, taught four sessions (each one lasts for an hour and a quarter) on Monday and the same on Tuesday - 10 hours in all.  Not only that, I went out both evenings with friends and family, and squeezed in a long lunch time walk on Tuesday with my son.  Interestingly the Tuesday (December 6th) was the five month anniversary of my dramatic entrance into hospital.  On Wednesday I flew home with more energy than I had set out with!. 

Today Thursday is a day of rest and then tomorrow I embark with some of the CRi team on a 600+ mile round trip drive to Cork returning home on Sunday.   

Truly God is to be praised.


Final posting of 2005

When I was in hospital I longed to be back in the heart of the Mountains of Mourne and I was determined to go there again before 2005 was out. On Tuesday 20th December, less than six months after the life threatening virus struck, I did just that.

Along with my 18 year old son David, we climbed more than 1000' into the heart of the mountains.

The photo shows me on the lower slopes of Slieve Donard - out of picture on the left.

(I had planned to ascend Slieve Donard, which at some 2500' makes it the highest mountain in Northern Ireland, but wisdom from my young son prevailed)

Next time it will be the full ascent!    (Note; I did a full ascent three years later - See 2012 update below)

Finally on January 6th - exactly six months after the virus struck - some twenty members of my family circle threw a surprise party for Linda and I at a local hotel to celebrate and to give thanks for what the Lord has done.

It was wonderful to thank Jesus for what He has seen fit to do, and wonderful to thank the family for their incredible support and love.

Thank you for all your prayers. God has answered them so powerfully.


 One year on update - September 2006

In April this year I had the first appointment with my consultant since leaving hospital the previous September. It was then that I was told that when I left hospital my atrial valve (left hand chamber) was only pumping 10% of its volume.  However when the consultant heard details of my fully active 'normal' lifestyle he said that clearly something had happened to my heart and asked me to take another ultrasound scan the following month. When the results eventually came through it showed that my heart volume had increased to 40%. The consultant then suggested that I take another cardio-version (electric shock) as he was now 50-60% confident of restoring my heart to a natural rhythm. I went into hospital on the 21st of this September and took the cardio-version, but it did not restore my irregular heartbeat.

However several days later I had my next appointment with a heart consultant at the Royal Victoria and what a blessing it turned out to be.

I asked the doctor what 'the odds' were of someone going from my initial life threatening state to a normal life within several months.

She said "very slim"  I pushed her a bit further on the issue and she finally said ..

"It's very rare. I've never seen it happen" 

                                              

To emphasis this she then added that a young man in his early twenties had been brought into the hospital several days earlier with the same issue, and had died very soon afterwards.


The years have gone by - 2007 - - 2008 - - 2009 - - 2010 - - 2011 - - 2012

April 2012 update - with links to various Newsletter reports

What a journey!

In early 2008 I ended up in hospital with what I thought was food poisoning. However in later years the consultant came to believe that it may have been a heart failure, because from around that time my heart's ejection-fraction diminished from 42% to 26%

However without being told this I would not have noticed any difference. As can be seen from the Newsletter reports in recent years this has not slowed me up one bit.

In fact, since first coming out of hospital in late September 2005 I have made seventeen international trips to teach and preach the Kingdom of God. These trips were to Australia (7) Sweden (2) Sweden and Lapland combined (2) Russia (1) New Zealand (1) Cyprus (1) Germany (2) and Hungary (1)

Also during this period I have made many, many trips to England and Southern Ireland.

And of course had a book published! (now 2 books!)

In these precious years since 2005 I have seen my eldest son - who was told by doctors that he and his wife could bear no children - produce two lovely children. I have seen my only daughter married to the son of our best friends in Australia, and this year give birth to a second son.  I have seen my next eldest son qualify as a solicitor, and my youngest son get married to the daughter of our best friends in Northern Ireland.

In 2006, while in Australia I felt a deep and unexpected desire to take up photography and this has brought great joy into my life. My photographic web site has photos from all around the world. As an angler since my teenage years, it was always a desire to catch a 'big one'. Well, again while in Australia in 2006 I caught a big, very big, blue finned tuna, estimated at 30 kilos! Also on the adventure menu was hot air ballooning, canoeing and off road buggy riding!

Australia 2006 montage

 

In 2007, while in Australia, I had a life long ambition filled. Linda and I were able to spend 10 days in the Kimberly region of North west Australia, truly one of the last great wilderness areas still left in the world. It was even better than I hoped it might be!

Kimberly holiday

In May 2008 I did what I had promised myself in 2005 I would do. I climbed to the top of Sleive Bernagh - one of the Mourne Mountain's highest peaks.

Slieve Bernagh Mourne Mountains
What a view! What a day! What a God we serve!

In 2009 while teaching in Australia, a very generous Australian couple lent us their beach home in the stunning Byron Bay area on the eastern coast. While we were there we tried unsuccessfully to get out on a whale watching trip, but every day the trips were cancelled, until on the last day we had given up the dream of being close to a whale.  On that last afternoon we rented a canoe with a guide and set out into the large swell to enjoy the final few hours of our holiday. Half an hour later, away in the distance, we saw a whale 'spout'. How exciting! But as the minutes went by we saw the whale get closer and closer...and closer. Suddenly we realised that it was a group of three humpback whales and they were headed straight for us!  They came up only twenty metres away from us, slapping their great fins, and underwater making that deep deep groaning sound that is so distinctive.  I confess, that like the guide, I was (very) apprehensive, but Linda was not. She describes the next five minutes in the midst of those whales as one of the great highlights of her life.  The guide said afterwards that this was the closest encounter with whales in a canoe that he had ever had, and in his apprehension he forget to take photographs of them alongside us.  What an experience! What a faithful God!

Canoeing with whales in Byron Bay

In 2010, after teaching in Australia, Linda and I, along with best friends Paul and Barb Harris travelled in camper vans around New Zealand's South island. This is one of every serious photographer's dream locations. As it was their winter time, it was very cold, very windy and sometimes very snowy. While we were there the first earthquake (7.1) struck nearby Christchurch, causing our van to roll about at 4am in the morning!

New Zealand winter

In 2011 I decided to come off a fluid tablet - which helps the kidneys to work, thus taking the strain of the heart (I can't remember why I decided to do this!) - and initially all was well. However while in Australia that year I became breathless while in Queensland, and had to return to Ireland a week early, where I ended up in hospital again for 5 days.

Sydney harbour bridge

Here some 4 litres of fluid were drained from me and I quickly regained my energy.

I am back on the fluid tablet once again and all has been well. A week or two before I became breathless, Linda and I climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a return journey involving some 1400 steps.

No problem!

During these amazing years the medical authorities - whose care has been excellent - have sought to get me on several additional daily medications, almost all of which reacted with me badly enough to cause me to come off them.  Indeed most of the negative health issues I have had in recent years have not been with my heart, but with the side effects of these medications. The side effects have always drained me of almost all energy and make me want to continually sleep. These medications are usually designed to lower blood pressure, but as I have never had high blood pressure, it seems that the effect is to lower my blood pressure too much, so that I become like a very tired old man.  Not good!  On one or two occasions I even became convinced that I was dying!  Within 24 - 48 hours after coming off these medications my God given energy always came back again.

It is now seven full years since that night when my wife was told that I would certainly die within hours.

What a journey!

What a faithful God!

What a grateful family!!

How great Thou art!