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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Cumbrian grandad who ‘died’ seven times gets new lease of life

In the space of four years, grandfather Colin Barber 'died' seven times.

Colin Barber photo
Colin Barber

The retired Penrith postman has severe heart and lung problems which, without warning, turned his life into turmoil.

He has had to endure a string of major hospital operations, including a quadruple heart bypass.

Yet, until last year, serious symptoms of his illnesses continued to persist.

But now, his life – and health - appears to have taken a turn for the better after he was fitted with a cutting-edge medical aid to help his heart and breathing.

Doctors have placed a device that is both a defibrillator and pacemaker inside his body.

And it has reopened doors for the 73-year-old, who has again been able to take a greater role in his village’s community life.

Mr Barber had – along with wife Maureen – been keenly involved with activities, being secretary of the Memorial Hall in his home village of Bampton, near Shap, before he fell seriously ill.

He has described how his life changed forever on a Sunday afternoon in 2005.

“Maureen and I had been enjoying a lovely barbeque after one of our community events – the August bank holiday raft race,” Mr Barber recalled.

“I knew something was wrong, but I just didn’t know what it could be.

“All I remember was the look of horror on Maureen and my daughter’s face as they called an ambulance to take me to hospital in Carlisle hospital.

“Then, all of a sudden, I woke up to a man thumping on my chest.

“I was so terrified I tried to throw a punch at him.”

The following day, doctors told Mr Barber, who moved to Cumbria from East London 27 years ago, he had died twice in 24 hours.

“I had suffered a heart attack and they had only just been able to save my life,” he said

“I was told that I needed surgery as soon as possible.“

Medics found his heart was working at just 34 per cent while only 15 per cent of his lungs were functioning as they should.

He was transferred to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, where he underwent his quadruple heart bypass.

Mr Barber said: “I was shocked beyond belief. I couldn’t believe so much had happened in such a short space of time”

As well as the surgery, he was fitted with an internal defibrillator to help control his heartbeat.

But, while it seemed to help his heart, it made little difference to his other symptoms

“I had a lot of problems breathing and had to continually use an oxygen mask.

“The hardest thing was I felt like a prisoner in my own home. It stopped me from getting out of the house because I couldn’t take the heavy oxygen equipment with me.

“I was so helpless. No matter how much I longed for my health to be better, things didn’t change.”

Things even worsened.

Between 2007 and last year, Mr Barber “died” a further four times.

“I had a few check-ups after my surgery and the first three checks went well with no major heart problems to report,” he added.

“The fourth check was different. I was told that, a week earlier on my birthday I had technically died twice.

“I had no recollection of anything happening. I couldn’t believe it.

“Doctors started monitoring me closely and noticed a similar incident had happened again without me knowing.“

Mr Barber, a grandfather-of-seven, was then put forward to receive a defibrillator, which was fitted in November.

He has now become one of the few people in the region to be fitted with a device called InSync Sentry CRT-D device, a defibrillator and pacemaker combined.

It was implanted under a small pocket of skin to help him overcome heart problems and other symptoms.

“Straight after the surgery I felt I was able to breathe properly again,” he said.

“My next check up is in nine months, so less frequent than before, which will save me travelling to Newcastle as much.

“It has helped in so many ways.”

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