Belfast father–of–two Paddy Lynas once thought his life was over. He suffered from depression over his newly diagnosed lung disease, the resulting loss of his job and the death of several close family members.
Now, just a couple of years later, he walks 12 miles a day and is off all medication. He no longer takes drugs to control his chest condition, bronchiectasis, and in 2015 was officially discharged by his consultant. And he puts it all down to the help he received from Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke.
“Seven years ago, my father, who was my hero, died. Then I lost three more of my family, my mother and two sisters, within 18 months of each other,” he said. “Meanwhile, I was struggling with this lung disease that I was told would not improve. It seemed to me that I was in a pit with no way of getting out. Then I got a letter from Pauline Millar, who runs the Taking Control Self Management group for people with conditions like mine, asking me to join.
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure it was going to work. I was depressed, I found it hard to breathe and my skin was grey. But part of the idea of self–management is that you make a promise about what you hope to achieve. I said I would walk three miles, and I did. Then I promised I would walk six. After that I managed nine and decided I should extend it to 11. Everybody said I would never manage it, but I felt great. I started to walk into the country, then to the zoo. I’d meet people I knew miles away from the house, and they’d ask me if I needed a lift home, but I told them I was walking.
“Before too long, I’d lost more than two stones in weight and stopped all my tablets. Walking is my medicine now. But if it hadn’t been for Pauline and NI Chest Heart & Stroke, I simply wouldn’t be here today. They saved my life.”
To give something back, Paddy did the Belfast City Marathon to raise funds. People were not sure he would manage the full 26 miles, but he said: “I told them I would run it, walk it or skip it. And when I finished, I felt as if I could do it all over again. When I thought of how I used to be, I felt as if all my Christmases had come at once.”
In April 2015 he even climbed Slieve Donard!
“I don’t ever want to go back to the way I was. The doctor tells me my lung function has improved. I never get a taxi or a bus – I just walk everywhere. I used to be a chef, and since my health has improved I’ve started cooking again. Last year I finally got discharged from the respiratory clinic. The consultant used to call me the Marathon Man – now he calls me the Miracle Man! It’s like a new lease of life.
“That’s why I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to live my life for others. Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke gave me my life back, so I’m going to do everything I can to help anyone else who might find themselves in a similar position.”
Find out more about the respiratory services that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offer.