I ONLY SEE BLESSINGS
Helosthishands andfeetat31,but Davidhasn’tletit holdhimback
‘ I get approached by everybody when I go out and nice’ that’s
When a virulent bacterial infection came close to claiming Auckland chemist David Gould’s life, having four limbs chopped off was a drastic but necessary act to cheat death.
Gravely ill with pneumococcal septicemia, David had blood clots at every extremity of his body, and gangrene had quickly taken hold of his hands, feet, parts of his ears and nose.
The young health professional was in a battle for his life, with doctors telling wife Dale to prepare for the worst after he was rushed to hospital in the dead of night and put on a respirator.
As specialists drew on every possible medical treatment to combat the killer disease, they were left with little alternative but to amputate. Already a cancer survivor after beating Hodgkin’s disease 10 years earlier aged 21, the new crisis would have a lasting impact for the rest of David’s life, requiring prosthetics for every limb on his body.
But several decades on from the life-changing ordeal, he tells Woman’s Day he’s got a lot to be thankful for and wants people to know no matter how tough things get, there’s always hope the situation will improve.
“We were able to discuss what life would be like without fingers and toes,” says Dale. “It was obvious he was going to lose them – they were black! I was more nervous about gangrene spreading up his body. I just wanted them off.”
Despite initially finding things difficult and at times painful, David gradually adjusted to life without hands and feet, his determination carrying him through the challenging period.
“Dave is a very positive person and he made things easy,” tells Dale.
He explains, “I tried to keep bitterness out of my life because as soon as you feel bitter, you go backwards. You’ve got to somehow find a bit of humour out of the whole thing. You can always find something funny in the day if you look hard enough.
“I tried to remain positive the whole time. Smiling your way through is better than grimacing at the hand life has dealt you. And keep the people that you love around you as your defence.”
Indeed, as David credits two special family members – his wife Dale and mobility dog Emmett – for making a world of difference to his rehabilitation, especially when a stroke temporarily left him paralysed down one half of his body six years after losing his limbs.
The North Shore father of three and grandfather of two, who is fronting this year’s Animates Christmas campaign to raise money for SPCA and Mobility Dogs, says his cherished canine aid has bridged a chasm between home and community in a way he never dreamed possible.
“Getting Emmett into my life was a huge thing for me and he’s made an enormous difference,” tells David, who faced the daunting challenge of adapting to four prosthetic limbs at once. “He opens my interior doors for me through the home, he barks for help when I need it on command and he picks things up off the floor for me.
“But the major thing for me is that he gives me confidence in the community. I get approached by everybody when I go out and that’s kind of nice. Kids ask how my limbs work instead of being scared of them.”
Having joined David’s household fully trained to help him accomplish everyday tasks, the now 12-year-old mobility dog is regarded as far more than a pet.
“He’s definitely a family member and a constant companion to me,” says David. “He will stay by my side during the day, sit at my feet in the evening and then sleep on my bed at night.”
But not surprisingly, David’s heartfelt appreciation is reserved for Dale, his wife and soulmate who has been with him since he battled through his first cancer scare in his early 20s.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her,” he says of Dale. “She’s been everything to me. She’s been so strong the whole time, always smiling and always positive as well. If I have had a bad day, I get told in no uncertain terms that I need to get it together. We work
as a team the whole time.”
Full of admiration, Dale adds, “We started with a difficult beginning and we just carried on. We are lucky because we tend to pull together rather than apart.
“But it must be so hard for anybody in David’s situation. To lose one hand is bad enough, but to lose two hands and feet, and to have a stroke as well ... He’s just a really courageous man.”
David and his faithful companion Emmett are fronting a Christmas campaign.
David in England before he had surgery on his limbs, alongside landlady Mary and wife Dale.