Orange Order chief Mervyn Gibson’s health scare before Twelfth

A senior Orangeman has urged anyone with health concerns to seek expert help sooner rather than later after being diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening large blood clot.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 6:30 am
Grand Lodge of Ireland Grand Secretary Rev Mervyn Gibson is in hospital with a blood clot in his right calf

Rev Mervyn Gibson is being treated in hospital and is in good spirits after a physiotherapist spotted the danger and recommended he go to the emergency department.

Speaking to the News Letter from his bed in the Ulster Hospital on Monday, the Orange Order grand secretary had one other piece of advice for men reluctant to seek medical intervention: “Always listen to your wife.”

His predicament began on Palm Sunday (March 28) when he stumbled on the last step of his stairway and damaged the muscles and ligaments in his right knee.

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It has been one disappointing setback after another since then, leaving Rev Gibson recovering from a bout of viral pneumonia and then going back into hospital while doctors decide if an operation is required to alleviate the blood clot danger.

Although able to joke about his misfortune now, he remains thankful for the physio’s timely advice on noticing that his right calf was abnormally swollen.

“The physio said to me, ‘you need to get that checked out as it could be a blood clot,” so I’m grateful for that,” Rev Gibson said.

“It turns out it was a fairly large clot so thankfully it was detected in time. I’m still in the Ulster while they decide whether to operate or medicate,” he added.

It is not yet clear how long Orange leader will remain in hospital but, with walking on the Twelfth of July now ruled out, he remains confident that he will be able to watch a main Belfast parade from the sidelines.

Rev Gibson’s initial fall the week before Easter had him off his feet, or walking on a crutch, for eight weeks.

This rest period followed an operation and a ten-night stay in hospital.

Towards the end of the eight-week ‘no walking’ order, Rev Gibson developed common cold-like symptoms. As his condition deteriorated, his wife was sufficiently concerned to call a doctor.

The initial dianosis was Covid-19 and the retired Presbyterian minister was admitted to the Mater in Belfast for tests.

An initial CT scan indicated a possible Covid infection, however, following tests the Covid diagnosis was later changed to viral pneumonia.

Rev Gibson said: “On Palm Sunday I fell down the stairs – the last step – at home. I tore my right knee ligaments and damaged muscle and was in the Ulster Hospital for 11 days and had an operation. I wasn’t allowed to walk on my right leg for eight weeks.”

As well as paying a glowing tribute to the NHS staff for the care he received throughout his ordeal, Rev Gibson said his wife’s insistence on calling a doctor proved crucial when his breathing had become very difficult.

He was rushed to hospital and admitted to a Covid ward.

“My breathing was getting worse and for three days treated for Covid,” he said.

“It turned out I had viral pneumonia but got home after seven days.

“I had another week of not walking, then had a brace put on my leg and the physio started. It was Saturday a week ago that my right calf became swollen and hard and the physio told me to go to A&E.”

Rev Gibson added: “I was admitted to the Ulster with what the doctor described as a large clot. So my advice is, get things checked out... and listen to your wife.”

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