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Personal Stories of Hope

1 Dennis Burch – Living with chest problems
2 Glenn Myers   Four weeks in a coma

Dennis Burch – Living with chest problems

I was born in 1934.  Shortly after birth I suffered from pneumonia and pleurisy  and they didn’t think I would survive, but my mother sat up with me day and night, and I did come through it..  As a child I was very small, so I was sent away to what they called the “School for sickly children”, at the top of Gilbert Road. It was called the Open Air School. I was sent there until I was fitter, then I went to Milton Road Junior school, and from there I went to Chesterton School.  

My health wasn’t too bad then, as a youngster – I ran a lot and did all the things that other kids did, without too much trouble.  As a child my mother had a belief and she sent us off to Sunday School. Then I joined the choir and found it very helpful because we were paid – and had extra for weddings and funerals.  I sang in the choir until my voice started to break and had to leave.  So I learnt about Christ, but it was head knowledge, not heart and soul knowledge. Mum always insisted that we went.  She was a person who lived her belief. It was always “there” with her, even if she didn’t go to church.  I am firmly convinced that when she looked after me as a child, she must have prayed, and I believe her prayers were answered in the fact that my life was saved as an infant. 

And that’s when I believe God first put His hand on me. Then, again, when I was laid up, I believe that was a confirmation of Him taking hold of me and keeping me safe until I was in the right place in the right mind to actually listen and understand and accept and I think – I don’t know what other people’s experience of knowing God is, but I have a vivid memory of when I first came to the Lord of lying in bed one night, and being overwhelmed by an emotion of love and just knowing that God was there – it’s something you just can’t put into words, it’s like asking somebody “what do you mean by love – what is love, try and explain what that feeling of love for someone is.”  And it was that kind of sensation – it was too massive to put into words.  Words cannot contain the feeling and that was completely overwhelming. I know that the Lord was with me then, and that’s carried me through my life, and I still like to spend time with the Lord when I can.  I do admit like many other Christians, we sometimes get so caught up in things that we forget to spend time, and we need time with Jesus, the longer we spend with Him the better.   There’s still a lot of work to do, and need for change within me. I know that, but the Lord’s been gracious to me – he’s been knocking off the odd warts for a long time now. I know there have been changes in me. 

  Shortly after leaving school at fourteen I started work as a dental mechanic, but I didn’t stay too long, because I kept having time off being ill. Then I went to work for Grades at Playfair works, where I glued the strips of wood, to make tennis rackets and badminton racquets. 

While I was there, I went to walk down some iron steps and slipped – so they sent me off to the doctor.  I’d been having lots of trouble with sweats and cough – I had seen a doctor who said “You’re all right, go back to work”.  But when I got to the doctors this time – it was a different doctor.  He took my temperature and took one look at me and said, “Go home and get straight in bed”.  And I said “Ok”, and he said, “How are you getting home?”, and I said, “On my bike”.  He said, “You can’t ride a bike!”  I said, “I’m not leaving it here!”  So I got on my bike and rode home.  

I went down with pneumonia and pleurisy again.  I went into a coma. I was very poorly for two or three months.  The doctors sent me to the chest xray department up Castle Hill.  They took one look at my xray and said, “You’ve got tuberculosis in both lungs, and I was also very infectious.  I had to go home, have a separate room, stay in a bed, no visitors, all my stuff had to be washed in carbolic and I was isolated.  Then they gave me an induction into my stomach wall, between my diaphragm and my stomach wall, where they push air in, which pushed the lungs up.  That collapses the lungs and helps them to heal. I had to have a refill every week for that.

They also said “You need to go away to a Sanatorium”. Well, it got delayed. One day I was up there getting a refill. Patent Phillips was the guy in charge, and he said, “What are you doing here boy, I thought you’d be away.”  And I said, “Yes, so did I, but they haven’t sent me anywhere”.  So he said, “Right I’m going to sort this out”.  So they sent me to Kelling Sanatorium, near Holt, which is near Sheringham in Norfolk.  There I had streptomycin and PAS – and continue to have the pneumoperitoneum treatment (PP as we called it). And as I was so young, they decided not to operate until later on.  

I was in the Kelling Sanatorium for a year or so, and they decided I should come back home again, (I was 15/16) – then I became infectious again, and had to go back in. I spent some time there again, came back out again, had to go back in again, and the last time I came out was the Friday before my 21st birthday on the Saturday, so that’s five years of my life spent in and out of the Sanatorium.  

What I should say is, that when I was first laid up with pneumonia and pleurisy, I got very delirious, and was also in the depths of despair, asking “Why me, why should this happen to me”, and at one stage I got so bad, I was contemplating the best way to commit suicide.  But I lay there, and thought, “There must be “something” up there”.  I always believed that “something” was “up there”- because I did go to Sunday School as a child, so there was a “background” there, but no belief.  So I literally lay there and said, “God, if you’re there, get me out of this – and heal me.”  And I waited – and nothing seemed to happen.  So I then said, “Well, Devil, if God isn’t there, are you there – will you do a deal with me?” – literally – and nothing happened, so I forgot about it.  

When I came out of the Sanatorium, I started work and met Jenn.  We started dating, and we got engaged in March of 1958, and married in August.  We started a family of course. We lived in a caravan for five years with the two children -Then we moved here, to a council house in St Thomas’s Square, and we’ve been here ever since. We were able to buy it eventually in 1999 with redundancy money.

Jenn was a Christian, and always has been, and she used to take the children to St Martin’s to Sunday School, and obviously, to Church.  My son kept saying, “Dad why don’t you come with us?”  And so, in the end – it wore me down, and I said, “Yes, I’ll come with you.  So I went with them one Sunday. I got up there, and there was a lay preacher called Dick Ginn – this was Margaret Anker’s Father, as it happens.  And he was preaching – and he spoke about the light under a bushel, being hidden, and not hiding your light for Christ.  I remember he had a lantern, with a cover over it.  And he spoke in such a clear and positive way – and I thought, well there’s something in this, I want to know more.  Then I started going back and got involved.  Peter Phenna was the Vicar at the time, and if there was anybody around, and they showed any interest at all, they were quickly grabbed, and found a job to do.  

And so I became involved, and decided that I wanted to know more about this in depth, so I joined a beginner’s class, – learning about faith, then after I’d done that I decided that I wanted to make a proper commitment, so I did a Confirmation course, and it was during this time that I realised that my belief wasn’t just in words, there was something there that was of a spiritual nature, I knew that there was more to this than I had ever thought of before, and the conviction came upon me that Christ was real, and I realised what he had done for me, and so I made a commitment at the Confirmation and then became very involved in the Church.  I was on committees, entertainment committees, PCC etc.

Peter wasn’t one to stand still, I remember in the early days, he said to me, “The Midsummer Fair’s on, they’ve got a Christian tent, we want someone to give their testimony, so I suggested you might do it.  So off we went to the Midsummer Fair, with me thinking, “What are the guys from work going to say, if they see me out there – you know!”  But the Lord was great because he gave me the impetus to really stand up there and tell people, because it’s important that they know what Christ has done for them.  And so that urged me on even more.  Then the Salvation Army asked me if I would do the same on Lamas Land, one Sunday afternoon.  

 I just thank the Lord for His provision over the years. I always say the Lord doesn’t give stingily, he gives to overflowing. Certainly since our retirement we have had a really wonderful life.   We been able to relax – we are not the richest of people, but we certainly are not the poorest, and so I see the Lord’s hand and provision in all that we have – everything comes from him so we always have to remember that it’s only lent – we are custodians of it while we are here. 

I may have been a sickly child and had poor health as a young man but I have made it through to my late eighties!