Belfast Telegraph

Bishop praises health service as he recovers from heart op

By Alf McCreary

A Church of Ireland Bishop has paid tribute to the NHS after a health scare led to tests that found one of his heart's arteries was almost completely blocked.

The Rt Reverend Alan Abernethy has since had a stent fitted and has recovered well.

He told over 300 members and visitors at the Connor Diocesan Synod in Carrickfergus yesterday that it had been a busy year of restructuring in Church House, and the staff found it stressful.

"One day I suddenly felt very ill, and it was such a shock to me, as I had been feeling very well and exercising every day, and enjoying walking and cycling," he said.

"I had been having tests since I fainted and broke my jaw in 2015, but the various tests since then had shown nothing untoward until June of this year when I suddenly felt very unwell.

"I was taken to hospital and very quickly had an angiogram, which was a camera inserted in a vein in my wrist, and it checked the arteries around the heart.

"This test showed that my main left coronary artery was 90% blocked.

"As I watched the screen, a stent was fitted, and soon my artery was flowing freely again.

"I got home later that day, and was told to rest for a few days.

"Since then I have been attending cardiac classes, and I realise how fortunate I have been in that a heart attack was avoided and I have not suffered any heart damage."

In praising the NHS, Bishop Abernethy added: "There is much in the news about the health service, but I am grateful for the care I was given and am still receiving.

"I want to tell you all exactly what happened to make it clear I am very well. But there is no doubt when faced with my own mortality, the experience helped me to refocus, and to rethink how I exercise my ministry and my personal priorities."

He said that he is in his 11th year as Bishop of Connor and is now planning to take a three-month sabbatical next summer to focus on writing.

"I have always found writing a wonderful way to recover the joy of this calling and to renew my faith, energy and excitement," Bishop Abernethy said.

In a wide-ranging address, he added: "We continue to pray for our MLAs that they will find a way of forming an administration so that decisions can be made regarding budgets, and that we can have a functioning devolved government for Northern Ireland.

Bishop Abernethy also asked Synod members to pray for Bishop Hilary of the Yei Diocese in South Sudan, which has close ties with the Connor Diocese.

He said: "I commend him for his courage and faith. He has told me that thousands of people are trapped in Yei, where during this summer some of the clergy were attacked and killed.

"Bishop Hilary and his clergy and people live in very dangerous and uncertain days."

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