Family, Health, Relationships

A new breath of life: How Brian was healed of a lung condition that almost killed him

By Gemma Koh , 7 September 2023

December 22, 2022. When Jessica Ong went to the hospital pharmacy to meet her husband after his doctor’s appointment, he was sitting there in a trance.

The Scotsman had been there for 45 minutes.

“The doctor told me I’m dying. My lungs are failing.” 

She got upset.

“I told him, ‘How are they supposed to give you your medicine when you haven’t registered for it?'” Jessica, now 49, admitted to Stories of Hope.

Her husband, 57, told her to sit down.

Then he broke the news: “The doctor told me I’m dying. My lungs are failing.” 

It was three days before Christmas … and six days before their ninth wedding anniversary.

Up in smoke

Brian Barron was 17 when he first picked up a cigarette. 

At one point he was smoking between 40 and 60 cigarettes a day. 

Brian Barron

Brian at age 25.

After smoking for 26 years he managed to quit.

Shortly after that, he met “a crazy Asian girl”.

Brian when he was courting Jessica. He currently does IT and Media for Marine Parade Christian Centre. Jessica is regional director at a global logistics company.

“I would not have gone out with him if he was still smoking,” Jessica insisted. “I have an extreme adverse reaction to smoke.”

While Brian quit just in time to meet the woman he would later marry, it was too late for his lungs. They were already damaged.

“When I moved to Singapore … I definitely couldn’t run. I definitely couldn’t climb up stairs.”

He recalled: “I wasn’t able to breathe properly.

“I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which means that my lungs are damaged and my airways have become irreversibly narrowed.” 

When he moved to Singapore in 2015 to be with Jessica, he could still manage day-to-day activities. 

“But I definitely couldn’t run. I definitely couldn’t climb up stairs,” said Brian. 

Struggling to breathe

In June 2022, the inhalers that Brian used to breathe in medicines into his lungs no longer helped. 

“My nose was stuffed up, I was coughing up phlegm, and my chest was tight. 

“I struggled to walk and breathe.”

His doctor referred him to the A&E department of a hospital.

Brian and Jessica and their adopted children on a family holiday. Their children are now 18 and 20.

He had a lung infection, and his condition went downhill progressively.

Recalled Jessica: “He could not walk for more than 10m without stopping and gasping for air.

“When he slept, he made a wheezing sound. When it stopped, I woke him up to ask if he was still alive.”

“There were times during the day when I was in the kitchen and couldn’t hear him calling out when he couldn’t catch his breath.

“He was always lethargic, always resting in bed. His appetite was poor and most of the time he couldn’t sleep at night.

“When he slept, he made a wheezing, whistling sound. When it stopped, I woke up and woke him up to ask if he was still alive.

“I woke up every hour – I was so worried about him dying in his sleep.”

Brian’s illness took a toll on Jessica and their two children. They felt helpless.

Quarter of a lung

Brian ended up in A&E the next month. The following month, in August, he was hospitalised for two days. 

That August morning, he couldn’t get out of bed. 

Recalled Brian: “I couldn’t catch my breath as there wasn’t enough oxygen in my system.

On his third visit to A&E in three months, Brian was warded for two days.

“Tests showed that my lung capacity had shrunk from 58% to 28%.

“It was like I was functioning on a quarter of a lung.”

Doctors discovered that Brian’s lungs were hyperinflated.

“It was like I was functioning on a quarter of a lung.”

“The lungs weren’t pumping out the carbon dioxide anymore. So they were getting bigger and bigger. So whatever lung capacity I had wasn’t working anymore,” he explained.

By this time, Brian was no longer able to help Jessica with simple things like carrying groceries to their flat. 

Said Jessica: “I had to take over his household chores. I was the mum, the helper, the cook … and I still had to work.” 

Last Christmas and anniversary?

Before Christmas, the doctor told Brian that he was dying.

He had what doctors often saw in mountain climbers with altitude sickness. He said: “My blood was becoming thicker. I had too many red blood cells. My body was producing more to try and carry more oxygen.”

Brian had what doctors saw in mountain climbers with altitude sickness.

Brian recalled: “We were told to enjoy Christmas as best as we could.”

After Christmas, Brian would need to undergo tests and a CT scan to see if he was a good candidate for one of three surgeries that may ease his plight.

These surgeries were risky, and success was not guaranteed.

“One was to cut me open and physically reduce the size of my lungs. 

“The second was a new form of surgery via the throat to install valves inside the lungs, and to burn sections with lasers to seal off damaged parts of the lungs.

“The third was a lung transplant.”

Though devastated, the couple went to Gardens by the Bay at the end of December to celebrate their ninth – and what they thought would be their last – wedding anniversary together.

Jessica recalls crying the whole day.

At Gardens by the Bay in December, Brian couldn’t walk for more than 10m before stopping for a few minutes to rest. It took him 30 minutes to get up a slight slope.

Smiling through the tears on what they thought was their last anniversary together.

“Usually people don’t know I am sick,” said Brian. “But that day, even the young people manning the gates knew that something was wrong with me. They saw me gripping the railings and let us through so we didn’t have to walk to the end of the 1km-long queue.”

“Have you forgiven yourself?”

During Brian’s illness and hospitalisations, the couple were moved by friends who rallied around the family to pray for them and shed tears with them. They provided practical help like providing meals for the family or boiling herbal soups for Brian.

Terry Wong

Some of the church friends – including Vicar of Marine Parade Christian Centre, Rev Canon Terry Wong (third from left) and his wife Jennifer (in red) – who rallied around the family.

Year-end celebration with precious friends including a handyman who helped the couple with repairs around their home that Brian was no longer able to perform.

Said Jessica: “These small little things meant a lot because it helped us carry on with our life.” 

Brian and Jessica went for several healing services but there was no change in Brian’s condition.

They also attended an online healing service where Brian saw a friend from the US healed of Stage 4 cancer. 

On why God didn’t heal him then, Brian said: “I figured it was still not the right timing or I still had a lesson to learn from God.” 

“The only person you blame for killing your lungs is yourself.”

But things were about to change in early March.

Brian and Jessica are studying theology at TCA College. During one module, Brian was supposed to partner with a fellow student during a practical session on learning to pray for others.

But as his prayer partner was ill, Brian teamed up with a mentor who asked about his illness. 

“My mentor then asked me, ‘Have you ever forgiven yourself?’

“He explained, ‘When I’m speaking with you, I get the sense that the only person you are angry at is yourself.

“‘The only person you blame for killing your lungs is yourself.'”

Brian admitted that it was true: “I started smoking and I didn’t stop.”

“I told God, ‘Please forgive me for my anger at myself for damaging my lungs.'”

So the mentor led Brian in a simple prayer.

Said Brian: “I told God, ‘Please forgive me for my anger at myself for damaging my lungs.’ 

“As I said the prayer, I felt a release – like a weight had been lifted.” 

Brian knew that something had changed in him.

He explained: “We often don’t realise that we have been carrying a spiritual weight. We need to give God permission to help us.

“I believe that I had been blocking God from healing me.” 

The healing service

Brian’s lecturer told him to attend a healing service at Trinity Christian Centre that very Sunday.

Brian wasn’t planning on going as he had a meeting that day. But his wife insisted that he go.

Said Brian: “There, the minister said prayers for people with illnesses in different parts of the body.

“I felt a warmth in my lungs. I knew there had been a drastic change.”

“When he came to the lungs, I felt something happen. I felt a warmth in my lungs. I knew there had been a drastic change, but I didn’t know how much.

“Tears rolled down my face.”

Earlier in the day, it had taken Brian 20 minutes to walk into the sanctuary from the carpark with Jessica’s help. 

When asked to test out how he felt, Brian ran up the steps of the sanctuary.

Said Jessica: “When he came back down, he was trembling and he was crying.”

“You don’t need a transplant”

Brian didn’t know at that point if the healing was instant – or if it was the adrenaline.

But he remembered that the minister had said: “Some people here are going to be healed. But until they go back to the medical boards, they won’t know for sure.”

Two weeks later, he went to hospital overnight where his oxygen levels were monitored. He also had a CT scan and blood tests. 

“I felt like the prisoner who was on death row who had been returned to the normal prison population.”

He said: “They found my lungs were still scarred, but my blood work was normal, and my oxygen and carbon dioxide levels were normal.

“My oxygen levels during sleep were normal.”

He was supposed to have his blood thinned out but that procedure was cancelled. He was supposed to have gone on to see a lung transplant expert, but that appointment was cancelled.

Brian explained: “When the transplant expert saw the CT scan and size of my lungs he said, ‘This guy doesn’t need to see me.'” 

Brian Barr

Scans of Brian’s lungs after the healing service.

Brian was given the all-clear and sent home. 

“They told me, ‘Your lungs have reset. You don’t need a transplant anymore. You are not dying.

“‘There’s been a major change.'”

Brian’s relatives thought they were coming to Singapore to say goodbye to him. But when they arrived in April, it was to celebrate his new lease on life.

Said Jessica: “Specialists we spoke to earlier may have put Brian on different medicines, but they all agreed on one thing: The medicine was to lengthen and to buy him time. It could not reset lungs. 

“Brian’s doctor didn’t want to say too much, but he did say, ‘There seems to have been divine intervention from your God.’ 

They had earlier told the doctor that they believed that Brian had been healed.

By April, Brian’s health had changed dramatically.

Brian Barron

The couple now cycle a few times a week at East Coast Park. “When I showed the doctor the data from my watch, he said, ‘You’ve been doing more than I have,'” said Brian.

Once, he wasn’t able to walk a few steps without feeling breathless. These days, he’s able to manage day-to-day life – and climb two flights of stairs.

“I felt like the prisoner who was on death row who had been returned to the normal prison population,” said Brian who still lives with COPD.

Said Jessica: “God sustained us throughout for His perfect timing for the miracle of healing.

“For those of you who are still sick and have challenges, hold on to God. God’s providence is there.”

Click here to watch the testimony Brian gave at Marine Parade Christian Centre. 

Check back soon for Jessica’s story on how birds and plants helped her to heal from three miscarriages.


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