Archbishop Martin Currie
SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAM
SAINT JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND-Archbishop Martin Currie describes what happened to him on New Year's Eve as "the most frightening thing that ever happened to me in my life."
"I felt like I was locked in a room and couldn't get out.
I'm sure I was unconscious and I'd come to. I'd be lying in bed trying to get up but I couldn't get up," Currie said during an interview in the hospital room at the Health Sciences Centre Monday evening.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. John's suffered carbon monoxide poisoning at his home in Outer Cove when a collapsed chimney liner caused poisonous gas to escape into his home.
"You don't smell it or anything and obviously I was overcome by it. Thank God I'm a big man and came out of it. But it was a horrifying experience," he says, adding there are now two days of his life that have been almost completely wiped from his memory.
The archbishop likely owes his life to staff who came to his home on Jan. 1 after he failed to show up to Mass at the Basilica New Year's Day.
He was found semi-conscious in his bed. Emergency personnel were immediately called to the home.
"The minute they entered the house they realized the fumes were all through the house and they put me on a respirator. They put me in the ambulance and rushed me here," he says.
The archbishop spent two days in the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) where doctors worked to increase the oxygen levels in his blood.
Wearing a navy blue robe, the archbishop sits in a chair next to his bed in a private room on the fifth floor.
"This is my lifeline," he says, pointing to the nasal prongs inserted in his nose that deliver oxygen to help him.
While parishioners and priests have been calling the hospital and archdiocese eager to visit the archbishop, physicians have encouraged him to continue to take things easy and concentrate on getting well.
All those concerned understand and respect why he's not accepting visitors, he says, adding that their prayers are very much appreciated.
Those praying for the archbishop are not only associated with the Roman Catholic Church.
"Today I got something from the Jewish community," the archbishop says, pointing to a simple but lovely flower arrangement in a vase and a fruit basket on his windowsill.
While he still tires easily, the archbishop says, oxygen levels in his blood are increasing steadily.
He's feeling much better than when he first arrived in hospital, he says.
"I have received the best of medical care. More than that, they couldn't have been any more caring and compassionate. When you're totally dependent on someone to wash you and shave you, you really appreciate it and you realize just how helpless you are," he says of his time in the ICU.
A native of Sheet Harbour, N.S., Currie recently celebrat¬ed his 65th birthday. .
Although he isn't sure when he'll be released from the hospital, he says, when that time comes he'll take at least a couple of weeks to regain his strength before returning to work.
"I'm not going to rush things, as this was too traumatic. I might even go up to Nova Scotia and visit my mother for a couple of weeks."
Though still dealing with the aftermath of the poisoning, the archbishop manages to smile when he talks about another experience that could have taken his life.
"This is the second time in a little over a year that I almost saw my maker. As you know, I had the moose acci¬dent a year-and-a-half ago out in Springdale."
On Sept 9, 2007, Currie swerved his vehicle to avoid a moose. While he managed to avoid the animal, his vehicle rolled over several times before landing him in a ditch and leav¬ing him with a broken ankle.
"There's some type of intervention happening here. He's not ready for me yet," he smiles.
- Reprinted courtesy of The Telegram