Says the minister who wasn’t expected to survive four strokes
David Hazeldine’s wife was told to say farewell by medical staff, but God intervened. Now he wants everyone to hear of God’s mercy to him and his family
By Chris Eyte
“You should be in a coma with those blood clots. I think you have been given a purpose. You need to tell people that you survived and give them hope.”
This advice came from a locum neurological consultant who was studying the blood clot scans of Rev David Hazeldine. Aged just 46, David had been hospitalised for ten months after being hit with four strokes. “Why did I survive?” asked David. The doctor said no more, but pointed to the sky. David understood his meaning – God had intervened. It was a tremendous encouragement for David after his health ordeal.
Four years later, David, 50, has retired from leading a church fulltime but speaks in churches about God’s tremendous mercy and love.
Throughout, he has been supported and prayed for by his devoted wife, Sam and their children. Before the strokes hit, David was the minister of Belvedere Baptist Church in Bexley, London for three years. Now a member of Esher Green Baptist Church in Surrey, he is on the church preaching rota and visits other churches to testify of God’s great mercy.
“You need to tell people that you survived and give them hope”
David grew up in a Baptist church during the 1970s and as a boy went to an evangelistic event led by American prophet and evangelist Jean Darnall. The prophet told David’s mother that her son had a calling on his life and that he would be a servant of the Lord.
David told HEART that another key factor in his faith was being baptised in the Holy Spirit as a teenager. At home one day he suddenly felt a strong conviction of God’s holiness and started weeping about sin. His mother said that he was being baptised in the Holy Spirit. Then she prayed for him and he received the gift of tongues.
“The next morning, I went on my paper round and I had a strong sense of God,” recalled David. “The God I knew from church had seemed distant but now I sensed that I knew him and we were friends. He was close to me and that closeness has never left me from that day to this.”
David began leading a Christian Union at school and went on to study at a Bible college and at Oxford University. He was ordained in the Baptist church and got involved in various youth work projects and church plants. A particular highlight was helping with youth work at apostolic leader Colin Urquhart’s Kingdom Faith Church in Horsham, Sussex.
David was in good health and had regular medical checks after his mother endured a heart attack. Doctors said there was no particular health risk – so it was a shock when he suffered four strokes in a row at the age of 46, on 7 November 2019.
“I woke up one morning with a headache all over my head,” said David. “It wasn’t just above my eyes, but extended to the back of my head. Normally I get up to pray first thing, but I felt too distracted. I took a painkiller and went to bed again but the pain was still there.
“Then I went to the toilet and, at that moment, three strokes hit me at the same time, affecting my ear, my sense of balance and my eyes.”
David tried to rest again at home but went downhill. His speech slowed and he had a sense of heaviness. Sam called for an ambulance, which took four hours to arrive.
The health stats taken by the paramedics did not show a problem. Sam was advised to drive David to hospital since his balance was difficult. But she was unable to physically hold him steady – so the paramedics took David to hospital in an ambulance instead.
The ambulance arrived at A&E and a paramedic walked with David into the main entrance.
“The God I knew from church had seemed distant but now I sensed that I knew him and we were friends”
“The receptionist asked me, ‘Are you David?’ I tried to say ‘yes’, but nothing came out of my mouth and I blacked out. I vomited and landed on a wheelchair. Everything went dark.”
David woke up two days later to find himself in a bed at St George’s Hospital in London, rigged up to various machines. Despite his eyes being closed, he felt alert. Then he heard the small, quiet voice of the Lord: “You are going to be OK.”
David said: “I couldn’t speak but I had an incredible sense of peace as soon as I heard the Lord telling me that I was going to be OK. It is a horrible thing to wake up in an ICU (intensive care unit) and to be so paralysed that you can’t swallow or speak. I felt like I was floating.
“I had an incredible sense of peace as soon as I heard the Lord telling me that I was going to be OK”
“I couldn’t feel the bed underneath me or the sheets on me, or feel my hands or feet. But when I heard the Lord, I knew it was a terrible situation but I was going to be fine. It was just a case of how it was going to work out from there.”
Two nurses appeared and informed him that he had suffered a fourth stroke – a brain stem stroke. It was serious; over the following ten months he was transferred from St George’s to the stroke ward at Lewisham hospital, and then the Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability.
Sam was informed, once David was off the life support machine, that her husband was likely to die anyway. Doctors told her to say farewell, with their adult children. David had only a ten per cent chance of survival. If he didn’t die, he still faced being institutionalised for life with 24/7 nursing care.
“Medical staff see people like me all the time and they all die. I have since found out that there are between 300 to 400 people ‘locked’ inside themselves at any one time. But they eventually die.”
David kept recovering, though, and eventually returned home. He was supported in his recovery by prayer from friends around the world, various churches and ministries known to him – “even atheist school friends told my wife to tell me they were praying!”
“We’ve come through praying together with lots of tears”
David is now restored to reasonable health despite a wobbly foot and a bit of imbalance at times. He can also find breathing and talking a challenge. Despite these problems, he has gone on the train to London, preached at churches and kept himself busy writing his testimony of God’s mercy to him.
“When I came out of hospital, St George’s Hospital did a follow-up phone call. The lady on the phone, who was in charge of follow-up care for stroke patients on the neurological ward, couldn’t believe I was talking to her. She was stunned.”
David now believes he has been called to testify about God’s mercy: “My faith has always been my cornerstone. God’s voice has given me direction and hope. It has been a lot of hard work and very emotional for the whole family. We’ve all come through it praying together with lots of tears. Now I have it in my heart to do all that the Lord wants me to do.
“I never thought God would demonstrate such mercy to me. There’s no way I should be alive now, travelling around and telling churches about God’s mercy.”
Rev David Hazeldine has written a book called ‘Don’t get excited, but’ which is “a true story of deepening love, faith and purpose, discovered through a journey from locked-in syndrome”. It is available from Christian retailers or Amazon