Couple’s double big day joy as groom reveals illness is not terminal

Emma Clarke and husband Jack Kane with her daughter Lola on the couple's wedding day.
Emma Clarke and husband Jack Kane with her daughter Lola on the couple's wedding day.

A man who was told he had just weeks to live got nurses to lift him out of his wheelchair so he could propose to his girlfriend.

Just eight days later, Jack Kane married Emma Clarke in the chapel of James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough surrounded by their close friends and family.

From the day I first met her I knew I wanted to be with her.

Jack Kane

But the couple’s celebrations were made extra special when they were told what doctors thought was a cancerous tumour on Jack’s spine is now suspected to be a very rare neurological condition called Neuromyelitis optica (NMO), also known as Devic’s disease.

As Jack gave his emotional speech at their reception in Billingham Synthonia Club, he was able give the best wedding gift to his delighted guests – the news he was not terminally ill.

In the space of three months, the 23-year-old from Billingham has gone from working full-time and enjoying games of field hockey as a goalkeeper to losing the use of his legs with the uncertainty he will ever be able to walk again.

The pain began between the shoulder blades followed by shooting pains when he moved his neck and hypersensitivity down his legs.

What followed were diagnoses of a trapped nerve and allergic reactions to depression or mental illness.

Jack then took a turn for the worse on a family holiday, spending the week dragging his right leg and with agonising pain in his back.

After arriving home and collapsing in the bathroom, he was rushed to the University Hospital of North Tees.

He was admitted to the spinal ward and had an emergency MRI scan but was discharged with a referral for neurology.

As his condition worsened, Jack used crutches and on waking up one morning to find he could not move, was admitted to The James Cook University Hospital by his GP.

Following further tests and multiple MRI scans, which indicated a tumour on the spine, Jack and Emma were given the news that he was looking at a couple of months, if not weeks, to live.

“It was Friday the 13th ironically but when the news sinks in you’ve got just a few weeks to live, I looked at Emma and thought ‘let’s do this’,” he said.

“I was always going to marry her – we’ve known each other for nearly 10 years and have been together for the last three.

“From the day I first met her I knew I wanted to be with her.

“So I got my mum to get the ring and the nurses put me down on one knee to propose.

“We were married eight days later - why waste any time?”

Emma, 23, was walked down the corridor by her dad and four-year-old daughter Lola and has thanked all those who made their special day a reality.

She added: “No-one asks to be in this position - what we’ve gone through these last few weeks people don’t go through in a life time – but we stay strong for each other.”

While Jack remains in hospital receiving treatment and physiotherapy, he and Emma are optimistic about the future and are trying for a baby through IVF treatment.