I am Paul and I have been married to Joanna for 23 years. We have three children. I work for Carlisle City Council and I run a volunteer befriending project for the elderly called Community Neighbours. I would like to tell you how I became a Christian.
I never really knew God as a child, although I did go to Sunday school at the Baptist church in Workington. It was fine, it was nice but it never really impacted on me spiritually.
I got on with my life and when I was 18 I went into renal failure and I went onto kidney dialysis and I thought damn, I’m going to have to go on a kidney dialysis machine for the rest of my life, but I wasn’t that lucky! I had to go on the less glamorous type of dialysis, CAPD.
I had a dialysis bag and a catheter and had to do exchanges four times a day, seven days a week.
For an 18-year-old lad it was devastating news and it was a real struggle to survive, on a daily basis.
I kind of survived and after five years I had caught peritonitis nine times. The infection was bacterial and it either kills or cures quick. A major factor is how quickly you can get medical treatment. I got through it but the 10th time I had a viral peritonitis which there isn’t really a cure for so it was looking quite bleak. The doctors cut me open and removed my catheter and flushed my peritoneum out and hoped everything would be okay. Unfortunately the infection came back. They had to do the procedure again. I would not have survived a third time.
I was quite near death at that point and I remember being in the recovery room, in so much pain and these nurses being brilliant trying to do everything they could to help me. And the hands on the clock on the wall started to slow down.
The next minute I was going down a tunnel and I was out of pain and it was great and saw this light and I knew I wanted to be there. Then a voice spoke to me, “Paul, it’s not your time yet; go back.”
I didn’t want to go back and I knew it was God , it was Jesus. The next minute I was back in the recovery room in agony and I had survived. Except I was different. I knew there was a god and he loved me, it was just too much to take in.
I was filled with love for everyone. It was as if all the distractions and barriers that had cluttered my life had been taken away. I could see with such clarity and I felt peace. In that room in all that agony I felt peace!
If you had visited me at the hospital, I’d have hugged you because suddenly all the barriers that had been holding me back had been swept away and I knew how precious we are as people and how beautiful God’s love is. As I wasn’t a Christian this was fantastic but a bit uncomfortable for people visiting me! But God doesn’t promise us a perfect life but he promises to be with us so I was this Christian wanting to get on with my life. But I still had renal failure.
I couldn’t go back on CAPD because my peritoneum was ruined so I had to start haemodialysis, this is where you are connected to a dialysis machine three times a week.
It was pretty crap really, dialysis as a rule, but I knew Jesus. I just didn’t know what to do with this gift. I remember dragging my mother along to St John’s Church.
I don’t want to be disrespectful of that church – it was an afternoon service – but there was me, my mam, the minister and someone taking the collection and playing the music. It was terrible. I thought if that’s church I don’t want it. So I read my Gideon’s bible I had been given at school and I prayed.
It was a really difficult relationship with God because I wasn’t very happy with my situation. Kidney dialysis is a treadmill which keeps you alive if you are lucky, but it offers no quality of life. Ten years on dialysis had taked its toll on me both physically and mentally. However I had come to terms with my life and my relationship with Jesus and I trusted him and that was enough.
And then I was given a kidney transplant and everything changed. I was fit and healthy and started to look for a job. A friend invited me to the United Reformed Church. I met Joanna and we got married within three months of meeting each other and life was great. We went on to have three children. My message is that God doesn’t promise us a perfect life but it’s the only life worth living. It isn’t a sentence, it’s a gift for eternity! The one thing Christians have is our testimony. This is mine.