THEIR dream life in the Sunshine State had been capped off with the best news they could have wished for – their first child was on the way after two years of trying.
But within months of learning they were due to be parents, Lisa and Jon King’s joy turned to sorrow.
There are only a few doctors in the world who can perform this surgery. To bring Lisa back to the UK would be a death sentenceJon King
Lisa lost their baby just 11 weeks into their pregnancy – and little could they have known then of the nightmare series of events that was about to befall them.
Soon after the miscarriage, Lisa, originally from Haddington, faced a string of painful life-threatening infections, before being diagnosed in September with an aggressive brain tumour that was initially feared to be “inoperable” due to its ferocity, depth and size.
Unwilling to give up on his wife, Jon sought a second opinion and transferred Lisa more than 600 miles from the Holmes Regional Hospital near their home in Melbourne, Florida, to the Duke University Hospital in North Carolina.
There, they consulted world-leading brain surgeon Dr Allan Friedman – who operated on former Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy in 2008, a year before his death.
He believes he has the skills to remove the tumour and is planning to carry out the delicate procedure in the next few weeks – but only if Lisa, 37, can recover fully from the infections which have already delayed her surgery.
Speaking from the US, Jon, who was born in London, today told the News how the couple were knocked for six when they learnt of the tumour – and how that initial fear had turned into a resolve to save her life.
He explained how complications related to Lisa’s infections have been so serious that doctors thought they would kill her unless they removed her large intestine.
Jon, 53, said: “I couldn’t believe that I was losing my lovely young, previously stoutly healthy, wife. We haven’t even had a chance to battle the evil thing in her head. It was the worst day of my life when her life hung by a virtual thread.
“The doctors told me they had to remove her large intestine to have a chance of saving her life. I insisted she would turn it around and begged for them to keep her stable for 12 hours.
“I will never know how she did it, but during that 12 hours Lisa somehow turned it around and very slowly improved over the next three days without requiring surgery.”
Lisa’s treatment doesn’t come cheap and Jon has faced the additional pressure of paying the bills – ranging from their mortgage and car payments to air ambulances and other parts of her care not covered by insurance.
It’s been estimated that their final bill could reach as high as £2.5 million – and Jon will have to foot at least ten per cent of that from his own pocket.
The retired pilot has launched an online fundraising campaign, with friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic rallying to so far collect around £13,000.
He said: “Unfortunately where we live in Florida, they cannot perform the surgery because she needs a specialist. They have sent her to North Carolina to Duke University where the best doctors are for her to have the surgery.
“This does not come free and although she has insurance, this will not cover it all.
“On top of the medical bills that she is accruing, there is still the mortgage payment, car payment, lodging fees, other travelling expenses and expenses that we all need to live, as well as her being unable to work.
“On top of going through the toughest time in her life, she is doing it away from a great percentage of her loved ones.
“Every dollar, pound, penny or pence is greatly appreciated.
“Without money I couldn’t have hired an RV to transport her family to stay with her in North Carolina and Lisa needs that support at this critical time.”
Born Lisa Elliot, she moved from East Lothian to America to join Jon two years ago after they met when he was a commercial airline pilot and she was an air hostess.
Jon is now retired and makes his living renting out properties, while former King’s Meadow Primary School and Knox Academy pupil Lisa has been working part-time for the Bank of America.
Growing up in Haddington, she worked in The Carlyle Cafe and her father Jim ran J & A Coachworks in Dunbar.
Childhood friend Fiona Hunter, 36, went through school with Lisa and the pair have stayed in touch.
Fiona, who lives in Meadowbank and works as a hairdresser, said: “She’s a lovely, quiet kind person who wouldn’t wish harm on anyone.”
Jon has ruled out bringing his wife back to the UK for treatment as he believes she is in the best possible hands.
He said: “I’m sure the NHS would do their very best for her, unfortunately their very best doesn’t include anyone of Dr Friedman’s ability. He is one of only a few doctors in the world who can perform this surgery relatively safely.
“Therefore, to bring Lisa back to the UK would be a death sentence as all the NHS could do is manage her illness until the day she passed. This is not an option.”
• Donations can be made to Jon and Lisa’s fund at gofundme.com/y24vy5aw