Here Dave tells about his battles with illness and the faith that has sustained him:

In April 1989 I was suddenly struck down by a rare, debilitating and extremely frightening condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). As a Christian, I believe that God knows us and loves us as individuals and that He intervened in my illness in a remarkable way. Perhaps you don't believe in God's existence at all. Or perhaps you do believe in God but doubt the ‘personal interest’ bit. There are parts of the following account that I feel demonstrate God’s love and concern for me. You may think them simply coincidence, or explained away by the fact that recovery from GBS can be widely variable. All I know is that the following events happened as described.

Struck down by illness

My illness began immediately following a mild attack of German Measles. I first noticed ‘pins and needles’ in my fingers. Within two days my co-ordination was poor, and I had no leg reflexes. I was admitted to Freeman Hospital. GBS was diagnosed, and the next day I was transferred to Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI). By this time I was unable to walk. Within a further three days I was almost completely paralysed, and the pain in my hands was practically unbearable. Electrical tests confirmed extensive nerve damage by this time. 

A bleak prognosis

It was explained to me that GBS always reverses spontaneously, typically after several weeks or months, that complete recovery is however comparatively rare and that the extent of my own paralysis meant that I should expect some 'residual weakness'. I play the keyboard, and at the time worked as a computer systems analyst – it was suggested that it could easily be nine months or so before I would know whether I would be able to regain the use of my fingers well enough to use a computer or play properly again.  






"By this time I was unable to walk. Within a further three days I was almost completely paralysed."

Deterioration, despair and doubt

During the next couple of days there were slight signs of improvement in the movement of my fingers, but other aspects continued to deteriorate. My face became paralysed, my eyelids continued to work but very weakly, and I was able to speak very quietly but with no lip movement. My lung capacity then began to reduce. I have said that I believe God takes a personal interest in us as individuals. At this point in my illness I began to wonder for the first time whether I was right. Did He even exist after all? Had I imagined His presence all these years? It was the night of Saturday April 15th. I now know that the hospital staff were arranging for my transfer to intensive care, as their previous experience of GBS indicated I would now develop increasing breathing difficulties. Swallowing became difficult, and my tears and saliva dried up. In the early hours of the morning my tongue was carefully prised from the roof of my mouth by one of the night staff. I felt more despair than I had ever felt in my life. ‘God, if you’re there why are you ignoring me? – if you’re going to ignore me, I’m going to ignore you’ was the last desperate thought I remember as I finally drifted off to sleep.

A promise of recovery and renewed hope

That evening, my wife Lynda had left behind a copy of 'Living Light', which is a book of Bible readings for every day of the year, morning and evening. First thing in the morning, one of the staff turned me onto my left side and gently opened my eyelids. I saw 'Living Light' propped open at my bedside, open at the reading for the morning of April 16th. It was at just the right distance for my ‘fixed focus’ eyes. I read as follows: ‘I spoke too hastily when I said “The Lord has deserted me”, for you listened to my plea and answered me’. It went on to refer to some of my symptoms – hoarse throat, swollen eyes – and then ‘I pleaded with you, and you gave me my health again ..... in the morning there is joy’. Let’s just say that the reading could not have been more appropriate. But more was to come. God had made me a promise that He was about to fulfil!

Signs of improvement

By 7am there was a noticeable improvement in my hands – I was actually able to hold ‘Living Light’ as I read it again, and could just begin to wiggle my toes. By 9am I asked to be taken to the Sunday morning chapel service, and was duly wheeled along the corridor – one nurse pushing the wheelchair (who I remember was so overwhelmed that she cried as she pushed!), and one each side to steady me. The emotion of the sudden turn of events spilled over in that service – and I discovered that I now had my tears back again! There was a lot of interest in me for the rest of the day. Targets were made for the rest of my recovery – I was for instance to aim to walk to the door of my room (two or three steps) by the end of April. There was general surprise at the sudden reversal of my illness, and it was thought that I could now be in hospital for only a further six to eight weeks. That afternoon I was told by visitors that a dear friend had been praying for my recovery whilst he walked a circular route around the RVI, and that everyone at the Sunday morning church service had joined hands and prayed for me. I believe now that God’s loving response to their prayers, and His promise through ‘Living Light’, continued to be answered in a remarkable way.

 

"There was general surprise at the sudden reversal of my illness...I believe now that God's loving response to their prayers, and his promise through 'Living Light' continued to be answered in a remarkable way."

A miraculous recovery

I mentioned earlier my target for walking, and my expected length of stay in hospital? Instead, I walked out to the hospital car park only eight days afterwards – unsteadily, like a robot, but I did it! – and returned home. I began to make three visits a week to the physiotherapy gym and within a few weeks was also able to write properly again. The estimates I had been given for using a computer and playing the keyboard turned out to be similarly pessimistic – on June 11th I sang and played at church the song called 'Solid Ground' that I had written whilst in hospital, recounting my experience of God's intervention when I was at my lowest. The following week I typed and sent ‘thank you’ letters to all who had been so supportive during my illness.

 

Even better than before

During September I began to return to work on a part-time basis, continuing to visit the gym. Having also bought a rowing machine, by January this had taken over completely from the physio sessions. I had never been in a gym in my life prior to my illness, and the exercise that I now took began to make me stronger than I had been originally. This resulted in some amusing things happening – these were the days before wheelie bins, and I once returned the bin to our garage before it had been emptied, because finding it easy to lift I thought it had been!



"In the years since my illness, Lynda and I can continually testify to God's direct intervention in our lives."

Sharing God's goodness

I also became far less ‘right handed’ than I was – very handy for wielding DIY tools in difficult corners, and giving a choice of left or right hand when using a computer mouse!

Later in 1990 I released the album ‘Solid Ground’, the title track telling how God’s assurance cut through my desperate situation and had been followed by my rapid recovery. Many people have since said how much that song has blessed them. Through our experiences Lynda and I have had the privilege of visiting other GBS patients, and giving them hope in His healing power. Recently we saw our prayers answered as a seriously ill young man completely recovered and returned to his hobby of fell running.

Continued faith

In the years since my illness, Lynda and I continue to see evidence of God's direct intervention in our lives. We believe that He intends all of us to have an on-going relationship with Him, by trusting in His Son Jesus.

I still have reminders of how poorly I was. I have numb toes and some minor weaknesses in my face. I have slight tinnitus and dullness of hearing in one ear. I also suffer a number of neurological pains that have been attributed to GBS after-effects. Why hasn’t God healed me completely? Only He knows. He gives no guarantee that by trusting in Him we are protected from all problems, or healed from every illness – but He does promise to be WITH us in these things. He promises to be with us ALWAYS. He is with you, right now.

Dave Deeks

 
 
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