“I should not be here. I should be dead.” These are the words of David Allen, but David was the last person that his friends would have expected to suffer the sequence of life-threatening events that were to commence, with little warning, on 17th May 2008.
For David, it’s a day he’ll never forget. And yet, paradoxically, it’s also a day he will never remember.
David, who runs Broadstone Clinic – a centre for holistic therapies and nutritional advice – was to all intent and purpose a fit and healthy 49-year-old who practised what he preached. On that fateful evening he was attending a friend’s party near his then home in the village of Shapwick in Dorset. Though there was nothing to suggest David was particularly unwell, he had complained of a headache in the days preceding, and one of his patients had even suggested to the Clinic’s Receptionist that she thought David had briefly fallen asleep during her treatment session. But it transpired that this was no ordinary headache and, as he made to leave the party, David collapsed.
“The quite understandable assumption of some present was that alcohol had played a part in my lapse into unconsciousness”, says David, “but the truth is I’ve only really been drunk twice in my life, and one of those occasions was my Stag Night!”
Fortunately for David, a friend insisted on calling for an ambulance and, by the time the paramedics arrived, she was giving CPR as David had stopped breathing. He was taken to the A&E Department at Poole General Hospital, where a stroke was diagnosed, and then he was rushed to the Wessex Neurological Centre for specialist care. Examination revealed a significant bleed on the brain, and that he had lapsed into a deep coma. In all, David spent a total of three and a half months drifting in and out of consciousness, during which time he suffered a number of setbacks including hydrocephalus, epilepsy and meningitis, and underwent brain surgery on no less than seven occasions.
“Apparently the Beijing Olympics were spectacular, but I missed the whole thing and I’m not sure my family saw too much of it either as they trekked back and forth to Southampton.”
Family were warned to expect the worst, but David was about to start a journey of his own, albeit a gradual and sometimes painful one, back to good health. “Given the scale of the initial injury and subsequent complications, I consider myself very lucky to be alive, never mind to have made such a good recovery. That’s down to the amazing skill, patience and dedication of all who cared for me, both at the Wessex Neurological Centre and Poole General, where my rehabilitation continued.”
David had in fact been warned that he may never walk again but, with typical determination and spirit, he overcame that hurdle and went on to complete a ‘triathlon’ in 2011 to raise funds for the two units at which he’d been cared for. “Staff at the Wessex saved my life, and those at Poole General gave me back my quality of life”, continues David. “Raising funds through the triathlon was my way of saying thank you, but it also gave me a physical goal to aim for.” Indeed, David’s efforts raised over £4,000 for the two units, and his amazing physical feat led to him being named Smile4Wessex’s Fundraiser of the Year in 2011. He has since gone on to Chair the Wimborne Wagtails, a swimming club for those with a disability, and is back working at Broadstone Clinic.
David has also had plenty of time to reflect on his situation, and has given much consideration to the inevitable question of 'Why me?' "I’ve always lived and eaten healthily, and exercised regularly, so you could argue that I was not the most obvious of individuals to suffer these issues. However, I prefer to believe that my ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ philosophy is what gave me the reserves of fitness needed to allow those at the Wessex Neurological Centre the time to deal with my condition.”
David has written a book about his experiences, his philosophy, and about his life before and since his illness. He is also donating 50% of the proceeds from its sale to be shared equally between Smile4Wessex and Poole General. For further details or to order a copy via Amazon, please click HERE.
Please note: The Wessex Neurological Centre Trust does not in any way endorse the content of David Allen’s book, which remain the personal views and thoughts of the author.