This is a truly inspiring story……………..
48 YEAR OLD ILFRACOMBE RESIDENT Richard Barnes woke up on Sunday 10th June 2018 and went to North Devon District Hospital with an aching left leg. But this was just the start of a nightmare scenario that none of us would want to experience.

Richard told our Senior Fundraising Officer; Julie Whitton “I am relatively active, in fact the previous weekend my wife and I had walked 17 miles from Heddons Mouth to Watersmeet along the coastal path and back again. But on arrival at hospital, having been driven by my wife, Ali she pushed me in a wheelchair to A&E, my leg was feeling worse and started to swell. This is the last thing I remember … I was unconscious for the next 2 weeks.

Luckily for me the amazing staff at A&E quickly realised the situation was serious and fast tracked me through and a number of key staff rushed to the hospital, who moments before were enjoying their Sunday off. They established that I had Necrotising Fasciitis, known as the “flesh eating disease”. This was further complicated as they then found I also had a rare form of Leukaemia. I was rushed to surgery and operated on immediately, as the leg had to be removed at the hip to prevent the disease from spreading.

Now unconscious, I was fighting for my life in ICU. My body was riddled with Sepsis and the prognosis was poor. Discussions were had between the medical teams to determine which additional limbs may have to be amputated. Thankfully for me each time the surgeon was called back to amputate he diagnosed that the issues with my limbs were not the same as my lost leg, so my right leg and arms remain.

After two weeks of constant visual by my family I started to come around. I was fed through a nasal tube and had a ventilating tube down my throat but slowly over that week I started to improve. So much so that after a week I was hoisted out of bed into a wheelchair to greet my daughter who had her Prom that day. But I then suffered another setback. That night my condition deteriorated and I had a massive brain swell and a stroke. I was induced into another comma for a week. The prognosis was so bad that my family were told there was no way back and spent the next day saying their goodbyes.

BUT by some amazing miracle I survived. I woke to my wife explaining to me that I had been asleep for a further week. With a tracheostomy in my throat I couldn’t yet speak but slowly from this point I started to improve.

Recovering from intensive care is very slow for everyone, I was told it takes a week to recover for every day spent in ICU and with ‘luck’ I would be out for Christmas 2019. I had lost all my muscle strength and couldn’t turn my head from left to right and as my strength slowly started to return I realised I had lost the use of my arm due to the stroke.

All this paints a very depressing picture but this was not a sad time, in fact I was rejoicing in being alive, the nurses of ICU even arranged for me to watch a bit of the World Cup on the tv.

As I started to recover I was moved to another ward and my physio started to increase and eventually when explaining to visiting ICU nurses that I still couldn’t move my left arm I lifted it in front of them, astonishing us all. Quickly I recovered and could be moved in a wheel chair. X rays showed that I could still not swallow anything but water for an indeterminate time.”

Incredibly, Richard left North Devon District Hospital on 13 August 2019 astonishing all the professionals.

Richard said “I had a 4 week physio plan written for me to help me get to the loo which was achieved in a day. I was walking on crutches within a week and completed my Chemotherapy treatment at the Seamoor Unit. There was one small sting in the tail as I was returned to hospital with Neutropenic Sepsis due to the Chemotherapy and Leukaemia which lasted a week.

On the date of my 20th wedding anniversary I had another X Ray on my throat which surprisingly showed everything was fine and from that point I could eat anything (cottage pie was first meal in case you are wondering).”

I am now CANCER FREE. I am able to walk on my crutches and climb the largest sand dunes I can find on Woolacombe beach. I am back at work, driving and have just received a prosthetic leg to begin to learn to walk again

I have now set myself a challenge to walk 6 miles along the Tarka Trail from Bideford to the Puffing Billy in Torrington with my family on Saturday 8th June to raise funds for the Cancer and Wellbeing Centre Appeal and ICU Department at North Devon District Hospital. The staff at North Devon District Hospital saved my life and I will never be able to thank them enough for the incredible treatment and care I had. I will always be in their debt which is why I have volunteered to be a fund raiser and in some small way give back.”

Richard’s AMPUVERSARY WALK is almost a year to the day he was admitted to hospital. He has defied all incredible odds, and it is a miracle he is able to take on this incredible challenge. To support Richard visit

If you have an incredible story you’d like to share with us or would like to give your support to the hospital charity Over and Above, contact the North Devon District Hospital Fundraising Team on 01271 311772 / email ndht.charity@nhs.net