Dad with a death wish

I’d pushed my luck for 35 years. Now I had to act, fast…

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Paul Wil­son, 44, Beith

Burst­ing into the bed­room, Con­nor bounded to­wards us.

‘To­day’s the day!’ he squealed ex­cit­edly.

‘Sure is!’ my wife Carol, then 33, beamed.

Climb­ing out of bed, we be­gan pack­ing party bags and hang­ing ban­ners.

It was 13 March 2003, Con­nor’s 10th birth­day.

But as I ran the vac­uum around, my chest tight­ened.

‘Carol,’ I rasped, sink­ing to the floor.

It was an­other asthma at­tack tak­ing hold.

She took one look at me and di­alled 999.

‘We need an am­bu­lance,’ she cried.

See­ing Carol cradling our 11-month-old Luke, and Con­nor’s fright­ened eyes, was gut­ting.

‘Don’t let this ruin Con­nor’s day,’ I croaked, re­fus­ing to let them come with me.

Rushed to Royal Alexan­dra Hospi­tal, my oxy­gen level was dan­ger­ously low.

Given med­i­ca­tion, the pain in my chest eased, but a new one took hold.

De­spair.

In­stead of watch­ing my boy blow out his can­dles, I was in hospi­tal.

Not for the first time, I’d missed out on a spe­cial oc­ca­sion. Asthma had plagued my life. As a child, I’d nearly died 25 times, missed out on school... play­ing with friends...

In my teens, the symp­toms had calmed down.

But, af­ter meet­ing Carol in 1997, we’d moved from Glas­gow to Beith with her lit­tle boy Con­nor.

Un­for­tu­nately, the damp cli­mate had brought the asthma back with a vengeance.

With ev­ery at­tack, I was lucky to es­cape with my life.

It was im­pos­si­ble to hold onto jobs.

Carol took two to keep us afloat, but the stress was seep­ing into our lives.

‘You need to look af­ter your­self,’ Carol urged.

But, stuck in a vi­cious cy­cle, I spi­ralled into de­pres­sion.

I’d binge on greasy take­aways for com­fort.

And my ex­pand­ing waist­line

was adding to my symp­toms.

Con­nor, Luke and Fin­lay – born in De­cem­ber 2007 – all suf­fered along with me.

There was no rough and tum­ble, no kick­abouts in the park with Dad.

And we couldn’t take the chil­dren abroad.

But worse was hear­ing what the other kids at the school gates were say­ing in front of my boys.

‘Fatso!’ they gig­gled, point­ing at me.

Hu­mil­i­at­ing.

Look­ing in the mir­ror as I got dressed one morn­ing, I won­dered to my­self...

How did I get here?

It was early 2010 and I now weighed nearly 24st, plus my waist mea­sured 44in.

One night in bed, Carol told me what Luke had asked her.

‘Is Daddy go­ing to die?’ my lit­tle boy had ques­tioned her.

Although Carol had man­aged to re­as­sure him, by now, I was hav­ing at least two asthma at­tacks a month.

Down­trod­den and over­whelmed, I’d stopped go­ing for check­ups.

But, on a visit in No­vem­ber to the GP for a chest in­fec­tion, I had a shock.

‘If you carry on this way,’ he warned, ‘you won’t live to 50.’ I was just 35 then.

If I didn’t dras­ti­cally change my ways, I’d be leav­ing the boys with­out their dad.

They de­served bet­ter... And so did Carol!

It was the mo­ment I knew that I had to change my ways.

So I called the sup­port line for Asthma UK. ‘I need help,’ I ad­mit­ted. ‘Start small,’ the lady ad­vised me. ‘Just take a lit­tle ex­er­cise ev­ery day.’

At that time, I couldn’t even walk for five min­utes!

But Carol and the boys were so en­cour­ag­ing.

Luke, who was then 8, came up with a clever sug­ges­tion.

‘You should try my Nin­tendo Wii,’ he grinned.

I hooked it up and, for the first time in years, I ran on the spot!

I did the same ev­ery day, adding a cou­ple of min­utes a week.

Look­ing af­ter Fin­lay, 3, I’d ex­er­cise when­ever he slept.

I also went for reg­u­lar check­ups, up­dated my med­i­ca­tion. And I over­hauled my diet, cut­ting out snacks and re­duc­ing my por­tion sizes.

In six months, I’d shed 7st and had a trim 34in waist.

Like magic!

‘I’m so proud of you, Dad,’ Con­nor beamed.

‘I’m just sorry that I didn’t do it sooner,’ I replied.

Then, in 2011, I be­came a child­min­der, took the pres­sure off Carol a bit.

One night, she hugged me tightly. ‘Thanks for every­thing,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how much longer we could have taken it.’ It was like fuel to my fire. I never wanted my fam­ily to suf­fer again.

Ev­ery morn­ing, I went for a run or jumped on my bike.

My asthma at­tacks sub­sided and I felt amaz­ing.

I took the kids swim­ming, to the park, to fun­fairs...and I went on ev­ery ride!

I was fi­nally the dad I’d al­ways wanted to be.

And the hus­band that Carol de­served.

In Septem­ber 2016, we re­newed our wed­ding vows on a beach in Cal­i­for­nia, with Luke and Fin­lay watch­ing on.

Con­nor, now 25, had to work, but it marked a new start for us all.

To­day, I’m a youth worker, on my feet for 14-hour shifts.

And the last time I had an asthma at­tack was four years ago. It didn’t set me back like it had in the past, though.

In April 2018, I ran the Lon­don Marathon and man­aged to raise more than £2,000 for Asthma UK.

Some­thing that I once be­lieved was im­pos­si­ble.

I want other suf­fer­ers to take care of them­selves.

I let asthma rob me of 35 years of my life.

Now I’m the one in con­trol!

My fam­ily de­served bet­ter. Time to change my ways!

New man: one who ran the Lon­don Marathon!

How did THIS hap­pen?!

I’m the hubby and dad I al­ways wanted to be

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