The NHS at 70: ‘Old age peddler’ credits Vic medics with saving his life - after he caught disease that killed Olympian

Cyclist Ned Branton hails the NHS for saving his life after suffering from Weils Disease.
Cyclist Ned Branton hails the NHS for saving his life after suffering from Weils Disease.
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An ‘old age peddler’ who was left in a coma and close to death after contracting a rare disease has praised the NHS for saving his life.

Ned Branton had to be kept alive by machines after he developed Weil’s Disease during a fishing trip – but was diagnosed in time to fully recover.

Cyclist Ned Branton hails the NHS for saving his life after suffering from Weils Disease.

Cyclist Ned Branton hails the NHS for saving his life after suffering from Weils Disease.

The 73-year-old, who still manages to cycle 100 miles a week, said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that the doctors in intensive care saved my life and I will always be grateful to them for giving me my life back.”

Ned, a retired ventilation designer at BNFL, picked up the disease while angling for carp in Preesall, but didn’t feel poorly until the next day, when he went for a bike ride.

“When I got back I felt a bit weird, like I had flu,” Ned, of Larbreck Avenue, Elswick, said. “The next day my legs started to swell.”

Weil’s Disease, which can cause flu-like symptoms, can lead to kidney failure – and when Ned went to see his doctor in Kirkham, he was unable to give a urine sample.

Cyclist Ned Branton hails the NHS for saving his life after suffering from Weils Disease.

Cyclist Ned Branton hails the NHS for saving his life after suffering from Weils Disease.

He could also barely stand.

“They took a blood test and said they would let me know,” Ned said.

“At midnight, the phone went and it was the ambulance saying they were on the way to pick me up.

“It came and took me straight to Blackpool Vic and I went straight to intensive care.”

Ned, once a keen fell-walker and skier, found himself seriously ill. His legs swelled so severely, surgeons had to cut them both open to relieve the pressure.

He was placed in an induced coma and hooked up to oxygen and dialysis machines.

“They told my missus to expect the worst,” he said. “They were keeping me alive. I was at death’s door.”

Around the same time as Ned’s ordeal, in September 2010, double Olympic champion Andy Holmes died from a suspected case of Weil’s Disease.

The death of the 51-year-old, a team-made of legendary rower Sir Steve Redgrave, led the sport’s governing body to warn rowers to maintain good hygiene.

A condition affecting just dozens of people a year in the UK, Weil’s is contracted through the urine, blood, or tissue of animals and rodents. It’s most commonly contracted through contaminated fresh water.

It’s easily treated with antibiotics if spotted, but it’s rare.

Luckily for Ned, once a member of the Fylde Coast Jazz Men group, doctors at Blackpool Victoria Hospital were able to diagnose him before it was too late.

And a week after being admitted, he was awake and recovering.

He said: “When I started to come around, the doctors and nurses were leaning over me. I thought I had been abducted by aliens, I honestly did.

“I was a bit funny for a couple of days.”

He added: “Since I have had that nasty disease I never take anything for granted. I appreciate each day. The doctor said, ‘You have survived this because you’re pretty fit for your age’.”

But life hasn’t been plain sailing for Ned since his illness.

His wife Virginia died on New Year’s Eve, aged 73, from sepsis.

She had been battling cancer, and had three rounds of chemotherapy.

She also received treatment at the Rosemere Cancer Centre at the Royal Preston Hospital.

Despite the heartbreaking circumstances – Mrs Branton died at 3.30am before Ned could arrive to be by her side – he said the care given to his wife was also top notch.

He said: “They were brilliant and very helpful.

“I can’t fault them.”

As we approach the NHS’ 70th birthday in July, we want to celebrate the wonderful work it does here on the Fylde coast.

Maybe you want to say thank you for the care you received, or praise a member of staff who went the extra mile.

Perhaps you, like Ned, owe your life to the heroes who make our NHS so brilliant.

Whatever your story, we would love to hear from you. Call us on (01253) 361733 or email editorial@blackpoolgazette.co.uk