top of page
  • Writer's pictureJudah A

On A Knife's Edge - My Story

Updated: Oct 29

THIS STORY IS NOW A FILM. SEE OUR WEBSITE TO WATCH TODAY! I always thought that tragedies were those sad moments that happened to other people. You hear a story about a neighbor who was suddenly struck with stage four cancer, or a grocer who was killed after being mowed down by a car. But what happens when everything in your life turns upside down, and you become the sad story that others hear about? It all happened so fast, right at the time where life seemed to be getting back on track.

The scent of salt hit my nose as soon as I got out of the car. The wind blew past my cheeks and life felt so good. We had rented a beach house as a getaway for five days. This was the first time we’d been able to go away since the dreaded lockdowns we’d experienced in Melbourne. Having been the most locked down city in the world, my kids were thrilled about finally getting out of the house. Long beach walks and dinner on the sandy foreshore were the top items on our agenda but we were oblivious to the major plot twist that was coming our way. Fast forward one week and the beach was a faint memory. I didn’t know how I’d fallen over and landed on my bedroom floor. I just sat there dazed. Jen called out to me. She was sick as well. We both had high temperatures and I was severely dehydrated and couldn’t remember the last several days other than a few flashes of memory. My son lifted me onto the bed. The next thing I remember was my daughter standing next to me. We weren’t home anymore. She said, ‘They think you have Covid.’ Who were they? The next moment she was gone and two doctors and two nurses were at the end of the bed. One was putting in a catheter and IV. I suddenly realised I was in hospital. The next thing I remember was being wheeled through a corridor and security stopping people from coming near me. I was so confused. They wheeled me into a room that had a glass wall at one end and beeping equipment behind me. The following days were a blur. I remember moments of eating, being turned on my stomach to help me breathe, even though I felt like my breathing was fine. This was their idea to prevent me from going on an invasive ventilator. I remember texting my wife a few times and sending voice messages. I was on a non-invasive ventilator (CPAP machine) and I had no clue what drugs I was being given at that point. I recall getting a few chest X-rays and being told that my lungs weren’t good. I had been admitted on the 17th December 2021 and by Christmas Eve, I was told that there was no choice but to be put into an induced coma and be intubated. I asked to speak to my wife but they said there was no time. I told the doctor I didn’t want to be intubated, to which he replied, ‘Would you like me to tick ‘do not revive’ then?’ I said, ‘No!’ A team of medical professionals were standing in the room when they were asking me what I would like to do. I asked how long it would take until I wake up. A nurse replied, ‘Four days.’ I nodded and they began to work around me. They asked me if I had any last words for my family and I couldn’t think of anything but to say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ I don’t know why I thought they would have a merry Christmas with me in a coma.

Then I experienced many nightmares, a few good dreams and one amazing dream from God which you can read on my blog.. My first glimpse of seeing a person was two nurses standing over my bed. It was pitch dark and they were talking about makeup. I was still intubated. I felt like I had a garden hose down my throat and I was trying to get their attention but I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t even move my hands. I felt paralyzed. I could only move my lips and eyes. The next thing I remember is my wife being on a screen in front of me. She said, ‘Everyone is fine, ok.’ I smiled and then Jen and my daughter Karina burst into tears. I smiled again and they burst into tears again. Jen said, ‘Oh honey, I am so glad to see you smile.’ I had no idea what they had been through at this point. Next moment it was day time and a nurse stood next to me. ‘Where are you Judah?’ she quizzed. ‘Sunshine Coast,’ I mouthed. I had had a tracheostomy (a tube inserted into my neck) so I couldn’t talk at all. ‘No, you’re in the hospital,’ which she named with a worried look on her face. ‘Melbourne?’ I mouthed again. I’d had a dream that I was in Queensland, which is why I thought I was there. I wasn’t sure how I got to this new hospital from the other one. I was so confused. I tried to ask her why I couldn’t move but she wasn’t able to work out what I was mouthing. I thought I had become a quadriplegic. Days later, a physio came in to introduce himself and he was an expert lip reader. He told me that I had ICU-acquired weakness and that I would have to learn to walk and feed myself again. He told me that they had transferred me there to put me on ECMO, which is a heart and lung machine. It’s the machine they use when there are no options left. Many people don’t survive this.

I spoke to Jen on the screen again and she told me that so much has happened. I also found out that two people I know had died while I was in a coma. They had gone through a similar situation as me but sadly didn’t survive it. At this stage, I was more awake and able to take in information. I noticed balloons in front of me and photos of me and my family on the walls with a sign saying, ‘Happy Birthday’. I mouthed to Jen that it’s my birthday. I wondered what could have gone wrong for me to wake up only days before my birthday. Jen looked like she was holding back something as she clumsily stumbled with her words. ‘Honey, it’s not your birthday.’ I nodded my head because I believed it must have been January 15th. Why else would a sign be there? ‘It’s February 18th,’ she insisted. My heart sank. Two months? I had been in a coma for two months? The next thing I remember was a nurse telling me that Russia was in a war with Ukraine. She showed me the news. I was concerned that this could mean World War 3 and I was stuck in a hospital unable to even move my hands or speak a single word with my mouth. I also still couldn’t figure out why they had shaved my head while I was in a coma but I just accepted it. Jen couldn’t come in to see me because she wasn’t vaccinated. I was alone in my thoughts. One night I had diarrhea three times and they didn’t have a pad on me. I had no control over my bodily functions. The nurse was angry with me because there was no one there to help her change me. I sat in a mess for two hours. I got so upset that I vomited and cried. I had no voice so it was just tears. After a long time, a kind bed changer came and he held my hand as I wept. He reassured me that it wasn’t my fault. I was still confused between dreams and reality. I dreamt that I’d drank a home brew of Coke so when the doctor came to find out why I’d vomited, I mouthed, ‘I drank Coke, sorry!’ I cried again and he reassured me that it wasn’t Coke. He knew I was being fed through my nose via a tube, in addition to an IV for fluids. I couldn’t work out why I was so emotional but I later found out that it’s very normal when someone is in this situation.

At this point, I had no idea what my body had been through and I didn’t find out most of the information until months later. I was sensitive to light so I had to wear sunglasses all day. One day, a group of doctors walked in after hearing tropical music playing that a nurse had put on for me. I was still in the Sunshine Coast mood. They laughed and the doctor said to me, ‘We call you the miracle man around here.’ He informed me that I nearly died many, many times and they didn’t think I would make it. In fact on my birthday, my wife received a call telling her to prepare for the worst and that they may have to call her in to say goodbye. Another time a doctor told my wife that I’m ‘on a knife’s edge point’. The doctors also suspected I would have permanent brain damage due to not getting enough oxygen several times while I was in a coma. Although I did (and still do) suffer short-term memory loss, apart from that, my brain is functioning perfectly normal. I feel very blessed. What I didn’t know, was that I had survived a massive ordeal. Here is the list for your reference. I experienced many of these things on and off at the same time. The list is in alphabetical order. - Abdominal discomfort (abdominal issue) - Abdominal distention (swollen abdomen) - Acute Cholecystitis (infection causing inflammation in gall bladder)

- Acute Laryngeal injury (damage to throat/voice box due to endotracheal intubation)

- Alveolar Hyperinflation (air trapped in lungs & causes them to overinflate)

- Anaemic (lack of healthy red blood cells)

- Aspergillus Pneumonia (infection caused by inhaling mould/fungus spores)

- Atrial flutter (abnormal heart rhythm)

- Barotrauma (tissue damage caused by a pressure difference)

- Bibasal Atelectasis (partial collapse of lungs)

- Bilateral lower lobe consolidation (fluid in lungs)

- Blood clots in lungs (several times)

- Bowel obstruction (blockage of small or large intestine)

- Bronchiolitis (chest infection)

- Bronchopneumonia (a type of pneumonia)

- Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart)

- Cellulitis (bacterial skin infection)

- Clostridioides difficile (bacterial infection in the colon)

- Constipation (difficulty emptying bowels)

- Cyanosis (bluish colour under skin caused by low oxygen)

- Critical Illness Myopathy (slowing of muscle fiber conduction velocity)

- Deconditioned muscle mass (Musculoskeletal Disorder) (no muscles/unable to move)

- Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clots in leg - from groin to ankle)

- Dysphagia-trauma (difficulty swallowing due to intubation trauma)

- Dysphonia (disorder of the voice from intubation trauma)

- Elevated inflammatory markers (inflammation in the body)

- Enteritis (inflammation of small intestine)

- Eosinophilia (higher than normal level of disease-fighting white blood cells)

- Epistaxis (multiple nose bleeds)

- Erythematous (redness of the skin)

- Fluctuating tremor involving all limbs + tongue (shaky hands/arms/legs)

- Fluid overload (body has too much water)

- Foot Drop (difficulty lifting the front part of the foot)

- Haemolysis (disruption of erythrocyte membranes, which causes the release of haemoglobin)

- Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) (Pneumonia caught in hospitals or when on a breathing machine)

- Hepatic Steatosis (fatty liver)

- Hypercalcaaemia (above normal calcium level)

- Hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol)

- Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose)

- Hyperlipidaemia (high level of fat in the blood)

- Hyperphosphatemia (elevated Phosphate levels)

- Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)

- Hypokalaemia (low Potassium levels)

- Hyponatraemia (low sodium in blood)

- Hypotension (low blood pressure)

- Hypovolaemia (low volume of blood)

- ICU-acquired weakness (skeletal muscle dysfunction)

- ICU trauma (trauma experienced from prolonged ICU stay)

- Infections (multiple)

- Low liver albumin levels (liver problem)

- MOF (Multiple Organ Failure)

- MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) (Hospital super bug infection)

- Ongoing Hypoxaemia (low oxygen content in the blood)

- Ongoing Pedal Oedema (swelling in ankles, feet & legs)

- Ongoing Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)

- Pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas)

- Paraesthesia in big toe (pins/needles/numb)

- Pericholecystic stranding (increased fat attenuation around the gallbladder)

- Peripheral Oedema (fluid in legs)

- Petechiae (spots of bleeding under the skin)

- Pharyngeal bleeding (bleeding in the throat)

- Photophobia (eye discomfort in bright light)

- Pitting Oedema in knee & shins (extra fluid causing swelling; when pressure is applied a ‘pit’ remains)

- Pneumomediastinum (air present between the two lungs)

- Pneumonia (infection causing inflammation of lungs)

- Pneumonitis (inflamed lung tissue)

- Post-traumatic Stress (trauma following critical illness, prolonged ICU stay & separation from family)

- Profound Bradycardia (low heart rate)

- Pulmonary Aspergilosis (fungal lung infection)

- Pulmonary bleeding (bleeding in lungs)

- Pulmonary Oedema (fluid in lungs)

- Renal failure – AKI (kidney failure – on haemodialysis)

- Respiratory failure (lung failure)

- Sepsis (harmful microorganisms in the blood or other tissues - multiple times)

- Severe Hypoxia (low oxygen supply in bodily tissues - lowest SpO2 was 26%)

- Sinus Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)

- Subacromial Bursitis with impingement (shoulder damage)

- Subcutaneous Emphysema (air trapped in tissues under the skin)

- Suction trauma (trauma to the airway from suction injury)

- Tachypnoeic (rapid breathing)

- Traction Bronchiectasis (dilatation of bronchioles)

- Ulcer (an open sore on the body, caused by a break in the skin or mucous membrane)

- Vasoplegia (low systemic vascular resistance)

- Ventilator-associated Pneumonia (type of lung infection that occurs when on mechanical ventilation breathing machines in hospitals)

- Ventricular Ectopic (abnormal heart rhythm)

- Vocal fold trauma (injury to the voice box/larynx)

Yes, I was one sick puppy. There are over 11,000 pages of hospital notes. Over the coming weeks, I left the ICU but was still on dialysis. Then a week after being in the ward, the renal team told me that I need a kidney transplant and would require dialysis four times a week in the hospital until then. They also outlined some other options for dialysis. They left the room and I just sat there for a few minutes. I was shocked. I let my wife know and then I prayed quietly. I thought about what I had been through and realised that it was a miracle that I was even alive – so I asked God to heal this also. Why would God bring me this far only to leave me here? After ten minutes, I called the nurse and asked her for a urine bottle. She looked at me strangely because I couldn’t urinate due to kidney failure. Fluid builds up in your body over a couple days and then the dialysis machine takes it out of you. There was no need for a bottle. She went and got one anyway for her seemingly ‘insane patient’. She placed it in position for me because I couldn’t move my arms much at this point, although I was happy I could move them at all. I prayed again. As I sat there thinking for a while, I suddenly felt the urge to urinate. I called the nurse. She called the doctor. He examined the bottle and said in a grim tone, ‘This can happen. It doesn’t mean your kidneys are working. We’ll have it examined because there’s a difference between good wee and bad wee.’ Momentarily I felt a bit defeated and then I thought, ‘No! I am healed in Jesus’ name.’ My aunt called me and I told her about my kidneys. She advised me to drink plenty of water. I had a limit due to being on dialysis but I asked for some water. After drinking for a while, I needed to go to the toilet again. During the following days, my kidney function improved to the point of no longer requiring dialysis. They told me it was ‘good wee’ and that my results were now the same as a twenty year old’s. Hallelujah!

The ICU doctors came to visit me every day to say hello and one doctor said, ‘You know, I am an atheist but after seeing how you recovered, I now believe there must be some higher power.’ She told me that the nurses were arguing over who was going to look after me each day because I was a great patient. I had so many good nurses who were very kind. One nurse fed me icy-poles that she’d sourced in a freezer somewhere. She hand-fed me for half-an-hour, one after the other. When I was in the ICU I couldn’t eat or drink due to the tube in my neck so the nurse would hand-feed me ice. Those nurses were a blessing. I also couldn’t remember how to use my phone so the nurse had to call people for me. In a few weeks, I was slowly able to start feeding myself, although I found this challenging due to suffering from limb tremors so my hands were very weak and shaky. Keeping food on the fork long enough while I attempted to bring it to my mouth was a daunting experience. Each scoop was exhausting. I felt like a child. This was very demeaning yet it taught me to be patient and keep taking steps forward, even if they were baby steps. Eventually I accomplished it and these things became easier over time. I changed wards a number of times and then was transferred to a rehab hospital. I was there for two weeks. The first time I sat up I had four people hold me in place because I couldn’t sit independently. When they used a machine to stand me up for the first time in two months, the pain in my feet was excruciating! I didn’t know how I was ever going to be able to stand on my own.

I had an emergency with my gallbladder and was taken by ambulance to another hospital for two weeks to have a procedure done on it. I had lost over 20 kilos so this may have impacted my gallbladder. I was then transferred back to the other hospital and continued rehab.

On April 28th 2022, after four and a half months in hospital, I was sent home to continue rehab in my house. I was bedridden for the next two months while I slowly learned to walk again. I had a physio, occupational therapist, speech pathologist, counsellor and dietician helping me recover for the following months. Today, I am writing this one year after I woke up. I still have a few hurdles to overcome; endurance with walking, voice recovery, breathlessness, weight recovery, exhaustion, building muscles, right-hand inflammation and pain, sitting for longer periods at my desk in addition to a number of personal obstacles. However, I am getting better every day and I anticipate that these issues will improve. The Lord doesn’t do half jobs and my faith will keep me positive and joyful. The joy of the Lord is my strength. I will continue rehab and I’m making use of my time working for the Lord. I recently went for a day trip to the beach where the wind blew through my hair once again as the sun fell on my skin. It’s amazing what just one year can hold and I ponder on how fragile life really is. My life could have ended last year but the Lord heard my wife’s prayers and granted me an extension of time. People around the world were praying for me during those months. I pray that the Lord will use me mightily and that the rest of my days are rich with serving Him.

People often wonder why bad things happen to us. Why would God let me go through something like this? The truth is, God is faithful to us, even through our trials. The Bible tells us this: …we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 I definitely believe that this experience has been a wake-up call. There were certain things in my life that needed to be changed and I now see this through a new lens. I believe that this experience has taught me great wisdom and insight into my own life. I’ve had many months to ask myself the question, ‘If I had died during that time, what would I have done differently if I could have my time over again?’ I can’t go back and change the past, but I can certainly alter my future thoughts and behaviours with God’s help.

Most people who have been in my situation didn’t survive the first five days. With the cocktail of drugs and other protocols that were used during the time of Covid, many ended up in heart failure, even though they had no previous history of it. I have read many of these sad stories. I don’t take for granted – even one day – what God has done for me. I’m a living, breathing miracle!

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share my miracle with others. God bless. Judah Ayling

bottom of page