‘I nearly died so it was time to pop the question’
HE ALMOST died from a serious condition affecting his spine. Then he contracted the serious infection sepsis and was told by doctors he wouldn’t walk again.
But just months after being given these drastic prognoses, inspirational grandfather of two David Smith, 52, made a remarkable recovery.
Earlier this month production manager David, from Risca, near Caerphilly, walked to the top of a Welsh mountain where he proposed to his now-fiancée Mary. He said: “I’m quite strong mentally and I have managed people for a long time. From this past year I have learned life is a gift and you must live it and I am living it to the fullest now.
“We have a date for the wedding and are already planning the honeymoon.”
It all began in August last year when keen photographer David was driving back from taking snaps with Mary around the Brecon Beacons.
A car pulling out to overtake cut back in, causing David to slam on the brakes, but there was no collision and he didn’t even have to stop.
Thinking nothing of it, David continued his everyday life. Over the next few days, however, he began to experience severe pain in his neck.
He took himself to A&E and was told it was probably whiplash from the incident days before and was prescribed painkillers.
The pain got worse and David, who also has type one diabetes, lost his appetite and had difficulty moving, needing help to even answer the phone.
Seven days later he was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where he was told he had spinal epidural abscesses, a serious condition, and that he would need a life-saving operation. It emerged that the abscesses had been dormant for a while but the heavy braking incident had brought them on.
After the operation and being discharged from hospital, David continued to experience health problems.
He back they said: “I ended up in hospital where didn’t know what to do with me and sent me to the diabetic ward. I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t even eat.”
Days later he was transferred to the intensive care unit, where he would spend three weeks.
“That was horrendous. My temperature was through the roof and the whole thing was made worse because I am allergic to penicillin. That was when they told me I had sepsis.
“It was scary, because after all that had happened I was still so close to death and they had been telling my family a lot that I would never walk again. They weren’t sure if I would even survive at all.”
He was transferred to the high-dependency ward, where he went through yet another operation and, in November, was given a predicted recovery period of six months.
Determined David proved doctors wrong. He was released from hospital a week before Christmas, meaning he could celebrate at home, and he said: “My family and the doctors were gobsmacked. It was such amazing news.”
Three months of rehabilitation followed and David was back doing photography again and, while still experiencing pain on a regular basis, enjoying life once more.
He has been with partner Mary for about four years and felt it was the right time to pop the question, planning a romantic getaway for two in the Brecon Beacons.
David said: “I booked us a cottage. We got up early for the sunrise on July 8 and went on one of our favourite walks, up the Fan Frynych summit, and I got down on one knee.
“I was down on one knee for a while and made a joke about it and was overjoyed when she said ‘yes’.”
The couple have already set a date for the wedding in July next year.
David Smith proposing to Mary at the summit of Fan Frynych
David with Mary in hospital while he was undergoing treatment