Bleak Walk at 40

Wesley in Rosedale

Wesley celebrated his fortieth birthday in September. One request was to go on a Bleak Walk with his parents in Yorkshire. So we set a date, planned a route round Rosedale and for once hoped the weather would oblige with something ‘bleak’.

Parking in Rosedale Abbey we set off for the start of the walk along the old ironstone railway line. The cloud descended; black cloud. The rain started and bleak obliged us with its presence. Wesley’s wish had been satisfied.

But it didn’t last all day. By the time we reached the cafe at the head of the dale the rain had stopped. The sun shone as we passed the old ironstone mines and loading bays. It was a great day.

A Tough Year

 

Barrie turned sixty five this year and started to receive his state pension. But that’s not what made it a tough year.

Warwick and Joan

Warwick on the mend

Warwick’s health started to deteriorate and by the spring he was visibly losing weight and suffering from a tremor in his limbs. Diagnosis was a drawn out process of elimination. His anti-convulsants, nasty tummy bugs, and loss of appetite all came under scrutiny.

After losing a fifth of his body weight and becoming very lethargic he contracted pneumonia a few days after a barium swallow test. During the next month in hospital he sank very low, losing more weight, he was emaciated and frail. After leaving intensive care there was a very dark time when his lungs filled with more fluid and it seemed he wouldn’t pull through.

Lots of friends and family were praying for him. The hospital staff were brilliant. At a very critical time a physiotherapist persisted with Warwick and removed over a litre of fluid from his lungs. That was the turning point. We had never known before that physios saved lives – but in Warwick’s case, they certainly did. He slowly started to improve. Perhaps low level lung infection had been behind his demise all the time. He’d been aspirating; taking fluids and food into his lungs because he was failing to swallow properly. A not uncommon thing with people of his age (he’s 41) who have cerebral palsy.

At this stage he had to be strong enough to have a general anaesthetic to have a PEG tube fitted; that is a small feeding tube inserted through the wall of his stomach. In future all of his food, fluids and medication will be administered through this tube. Nil by mouth for the rest of his life.

He is still weak but back at his own home. He is slowly putting on weight and looking better. He now often greets us with a smile but is still unable to move his arms and legs. We hope physiotherapy will gradually help to him to more fully recover. He’s confined to bed for the time being and may not be well enough to come home to us for Christmas. He needs our prayers.

The overhead of going to see Warwick for a few hours each day has, at times, taken it’s toll on us too, but we have been sustained by God’s grace and our good friends, and we’re in good heart.

Ten o’clock miracle

At ten o’clock they started to pray. Earlier in the evening the family had been called to the bedside of my father as he lay dying in hospital in Preston, Lancashire. They had been summoned by the doctor because he wasn’t expected to survive the night.

The illness had started a few days earlier as he rode his Panther 600 motorbike home to Ambleside from Coventry where his fianc??e, later to be my mother, lived. As he battled against driving rain on the old A6 towards the Lake District he developed a headache which intensified as the miles passed. By the time he arrived home it was so bad he went straight to bed to ‘sleep it off’. Next morning the pain was worse and his mother persuaded him to see the doctor who admitted him to hospital.

“TB meningitis” the consultant told his family, “there’s not much we can do. Patients reach a crisis point; some get better, others don’t make it.”

This was before antibiotics were in general use to fight the infection revealed in the tests on his ‘lumber puncture’. I remember my dad describing the lumber puncture process with relish when he retold this story. A long curved needle was inserted between the discs in his back into his spinal fluid. A sample was drawn off for tests. His hands and fingers used to describe the arc and length of the needle whilst his face grimaced as he recalled the experience.

So they waited. The crisis came and passed with no improvement. He hadn’t eaten for days, he was thin and weak and had only slept through the intense pain with help from medication.

After the family returned to Ambleside there was little conversation. My mum’s family, the Newsholme’s, were strong in their faith. Grandad Newsholme was Pastor of a large Pentecostal Church in Coventry. They actively believed in miracles. On my father’s side the family was divided. Some were believers, some not. Grandma Stephenson had helped to start the Pentecostal Mission in Elterwater but her husband hadn’t been involved. All four of dad’s younger siblings were believers too. The four older one’s, I was told, weren’t.By ten o’clock only the believers were left in the room. Grandad Newsholme suggested they prayed for healing. So they did. Thirty five miles away, a dying man went to sleep naturally for the first time for two weeks.

The next morning my father sat up in bed – pain free – and startled the young duty nurse. “What’s for breakfast?” He asked. The nurse left the bedside without responding and called the ward sister. He asked her the same question. “What’s for breakfast, I’m starving?””I think you’d better get him something quick.” The sister said to the nurse. That morning he ate a full English breakfast and waited for the puzzled doctor to arrive. He ordered another lumber puncture and then another one.The doctor had reprimanded the lab staff for mixing up the samples because they reported that there was no trace of the infection in my father’s sample. Convinced there was a mistake he ordered the second procedure with the same result. No infection. He concluded in the light of my father’s surprise recovery that it must have been a miracle. The miracle explanation was confirmed when he was told about the impromptu prayer meeting in Ambleside the night before.Within days dad was discharged from hospital and steadily gained strength and weight to be restored to his family. It was 1947. A few months later, in March 1948, he and my mother, Alice, were married in her father’s church in Coventry. I arrived the following summer.

I often reflect on how my existence is due to a miracle of healing two years before I was born and thank God for answered prayer.

Going for a song

IMG_0190.JPGAmazing, fantastic, exhilarating, enjoyable, strenuous. Just some of the words I’ve used as people have asked me how the C2C ride went.

Many are surprised that I’m suffering no after effects from the ride, but to be honest it’s not really the marathon people think it is. I’ve talked to several people since Friday who have also completed the ride – just a few among the twenty thousand who complete it each year.

If you were one of the people who sponsored me I am really grateful for your support. You may like to consider giving regularly to either of the charities I was representing.

logo_100x122.gifRiding Lights Theatre Company has a membership scheme for regular givers. It offers a number of benefits as well as the confidence that you are supporting a very special professional and Christian Theatre Company.

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The Funzi and Bodo Trust is engaged in long term projects in those communities on the south eastern coast of Kenya. Regular support allows them to plan their educational and medical projects with confidence.

If you didn’t sponsor me it’s not too late. The Justgiving sites are still open for business. Click on the links and you can join in to help.

Riding Lights Theatre Company
The Funzi and Bodo Trust

On Black HillWhere to next for me and my machine? I’d love to do John O’Groats to Lands End but that would carve a huge hole in my diary. Possibly Liverpool to Hull – I’d need to borrow a hybrid bike for that one because of the many off road sections. Be sure I’ll let you know when it’s being planned.

Thank you for following my adventure – I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The memories will stay with me for a long time. One thing I discovered as I drove my bike upwards in the Pennines. Singing is a great way to control breathing on the inclines. So if you were somewhere near the summit of Hartside or Black Hill and thought the local chapel was having a choir practice it was possibly me belting out hymns and songs of praise in the strange rhythm my panting heart demanded. I can recommend it – not just on the hills. Singing is good for you – body, soul and spirit. Especially if you have someone to praise for your very existence.

Hotting up

The gentle ride out of Whitehaven is followed by a sharp rise into the Lake District. Testing gradients challenge every muscle to show what it’s made of. A little low cloud and drizzle soon gave way to sunshine and rising temperatures. Sweat poured as heart raced to supply oxygen to burn and turn the pedals.
A couple of “chain malfunctions” slowed me down but finally I reached the Whinlatter Visitor centre for a cold lemonade and a date slice.
Now on to Keswick for lunch and a gentler ride to Penrith for tea.

Looking back along the road

Resting and Looking Back at the view

Whinlatter Visitors Centre

Whinlatter Visitors Centre