Lancaster family’s gratitude for St John’s Hospice team after dad-of-three fights back from heart failure

Ian Vandesande with his wife Aleksandra and mum Jean.
Ian Vandesande with his wife Aleksandra and mum Jean.

The family of a dad-of-three who has battled back from heart failure after being just days from death say the miracle is largely down to the work of the St John’s Hospice team who cared for him.

Ian Vandesande is fighting his way back to full health with the care and support of the specialists at Slyne Road.

Senior registered nurse Louise Yates (left) and ward sister  Debbie Allan with Ian.

Senior registered nurse Louise Yates (left) and ward sister Debbie Allan with Ian.

The 40-year-old was told he had less than a week to live when he arrived at the hospice in November.

But he has defied the odds – and thanked St John’s for the part they have played in his recovery.

Ian fell ill last August during a family holiday in Poland.

“He couldn’t breathe or walk or sleep and was very tired,” his wife Aleksandra, known as Ola, said.

Ian's wife Aleksandra, mum Jean and children Tia, seven, Cameron, six, and four-year-old Oskar. They are dressed in Christmas jumpers donated to the hospice by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association North West.

Ian's wife Aleksandra, mum Jean and children Tia, seven, Cameron, six, and four-year-old Oskar. They are dressed in Christmas jumpers donated to the hospice by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association North West.

“I took him to hospital to see what was wrong. They said he had pneumonia and his heart was in a very bad state.

“They said his heart was like an 80-year-old’s, and that if he left the hospital he would drop dead.”

Ian was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, and remained in hospital in Poland until he was well enough to be flown back to England via air ambulance.

However, during the trip, Ian’s condition deteriorated to the point where his heart was only working at five per cent, and the helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in Norwich.

He was finally able to move closer to home five weeks later, being taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where he stayed for six weeks.

But in early November, doctors in Blackpool gave Ian’s family the devastating news that there was no more they could do to help.

Ian had just days to live, they predicted, and he was transferred to St John’s Hospice in Lancaster on November 13.

Ola said: “His heart was throwing out blood clots into his other organs. They said nothing more could be done.”

Incredibly, with the support of his family, cardiologist and the team of specialists at the hospice, Ian fought back, and shortly before Christmas was given the news that he had no more blood clots in his system.

His medication has now been reduced and he is having physio to help build up his muscles again.

Since Christmas, Ian has been able to spend a day at home each week, and it is hoped he will be able to have an overnight stay soon.

Although he is currently too weak, it is possible Ian might need a heart transplant in the future.

Ola said: “His cardiologist said she was amazed he was still here.”

Ward sister Debbie Allan said: “He has been incredible. He essentially came in to be kept comfortable; he was dying at that stage.

“Now he is improving all the time. He is like a different man.

“I think sometimes human bodies just get better, and Ian is young which helps.

“A combination of all sorts of things has brought on a big improvement, and it’s a big thrill for us that he is so much better.”

Ian’s mum Jean said the hospice has made a massive difference to the whole family during his illness.

“Everyone is so friendly here, they have been brilliant,” she said. “You would think a hospice would be miserable, but it’s a happy place.

“Everyone is always laughing and joking.

“They look after the families as well as the patients, and it helps such a lot to know he’s safe here.

“We have been told all along what’s going on; they have kept us informed.”

Ola added: “The children are much more comfortable now Ian is here. They are not scared of anything here. In the hospitals it was so different.”

Ian has worked as catering manager at Carnforth High School for the last two years.

Born in Lancaster, he attended Dallas Road Primary School and Central Lancaster High School and now lives on the Ridge with Ola and their three children, Tia, seven, Cameron, six, and four-year-old Oskar.

He said: “I feel great to be honest. I keep forgetting I am ill. They have looked after me well in here and I want to say thanks to all of the people here for what they have done for me.”

It is expected that Ian will spend a few more months in the hospice.

“We just have to see how it goes,” Jean said. “You can’t predict what’s going to happen.

“I never thought my 40-year-old son would end up with an illness like this, it’s been terrible, but the hospice has been like a second home for us.

“The care you get here is outstanding. It’s more personal than a hospital, and nothing is too much trouble for them.

“It’s so important that we have places like this.”