Dad with a death wish
I’d pushed my luck for 35 years. Now I had to act, fast…
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.
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.
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.
‘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