Gladstone born soldier turned pastor fights with back pain

Paster Patrick Marshall shares his story of being in the war and injuring his back.
Paster Patrick Marshall shares his story of being in the war and injuring his back. Tom Huntley

PATRICK Marshall didn't even make it to the Borneo war fields in 1962, but he still wears his battle scars.

The 72-year-old is dressed in a jet black jacket with a Special Air Service (SAS) emblem stitched onto his left pocket.

He's also sporting a baby navy blue tie of the same design.

Patrick has agreed to meet with me on the verandah of his brother's New Auckland home to discuss some of his strongest battles in his life.

He takes his time selecting a place to sit before carefully lowering himself into a cushioned brown chair.

"I'll take this seat, it's better for my back," Patrick says.

"I usually use a wheelchair, but my brother's house isn't wheelchair compatible," he says, pointing to the stairs that lead to the top floor of the traditional wooden Queenslander.

Patrick shares his war stories like any bloke at the corner pub would, but in a way that makes you feel like you are the first to hear them.

The fallen solider never misses a beat as he flicks through a self composed red booklet containing detailed documents about his staggered medical history.

Some are hand written notes; others are pencil drawings, but both outline his medical history which will eventually lead to his demise.

Patrick Marshall's condition wasn't going to improve- and he knew that.

"I'm not scared," Patrick says, "SAS men don't get scared."

In 1978 the former SAS cadet had a cocktail of benzene, iodine, sulphuric and hydraulic acid injected into his spinal cavity for a myelogram procedure.

Doctors were trying to find reasons behind Patrick's underlying back pain, which is believed to be caused by a tragic accident as part of SAS training.

The Myodil drug, manufactured by British pharmaceutical company Glaxo between 1945-1988, was used as an imaging dye in X-Rays to highlight damage in the spinal cord.

Although the procedure was legal in the UK and the USA, Scandinavian countries refused the use of Myodil as far back as 1945 because of its adverse affects on humans.

"In my case after the X-Rays had been taken the Myodil oil-based dye was left in my spinal cord and was not extracted out as the manufacturer's warning said must be done," Patrick says.

"Back in those days medicine was all about trial and error."

Leaving school to join the SAS as an 18-year-old, the self-confessed genius with a 150 IQ decided to forge a career serving his country.

But unfortunately for Patrick that came to a bitter end after an accident during a training exercise in New South Wales in 1962.

"We were climbing a cliff face during a training exercise. We were 40 feet from the ground and I fell," he said.

"I remember free falling and it wasn't like any simulation we had prepared for... the last thing I remember was hitting the ground."

The bottom of Patrick's spine was shattered from the waist down.

He was taken to the Concord Reparation General Hospital in NSW, before being airlifted to Perth where he was hospitalised for weeks.

"My unit went into combat in Borneo and I was in hospital. I became very bitter at having missed out on going into combat with the unit I had trained for all those years waiting to be sent into combat," he said.

After years of pain and searching for a cure Patrick underwent a myelogram in 1978 to fine answers behind his pain, but encountered yet another battle.

"I went to nine different doctors over the years complaining of severe burning pain but each of them, after giving me a minor examination told me that there was nothing wrong with me," he said.

"One of them even sent me to a psychiatrist... [the doctor] came back to me and said I had Hysterical Manifestation, which was the new name for psychosomatic pain. In other words, it's all in the mind."

"I knew the pain I was experiencing was real pain and something was wrong with my spine from the waist down. But no one would believe me."

Almost two decades after the myelogram procedure Patrick stumbled across a doctor after driving through the back streets of a Perth suburb.

Within minutes of meeting with Patrick, the doctor diagnosed him with a rare chronic disease called Arachnoiditis.

"Unfortunately there was no cure, only pain management in the form of morphine," Patrick says.

He was later referred to a neurosurgeon who confirmed his diagnosis in August 1992.

Arachnoiditis is often unheard of within the medical realm, with many of the doctor's Patrick visited not knowing anything about it.

Today Patrick has been prescribed medication that helps manage the critical disease- many of which he can't keep track of alone.

"I need my wife to be with me when I eat and to remind me to take my medication. My memory is awful these days," he said.

"I now have numbness to both of my feet, bladder and bowel problems, impotence, vision disturbances, permanent memory loss and severe muscle spasms and tremors that can last between 30 seconds to 30 minutes."

And in Australia, Patrick isn't the only suffer.

Over the past few decades a number of individual and class action cases have been made to British pharmaceutical companies, with most settling out of court.

Australian pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline has in the past denied its products cause arachnoiditis.

The drug was later removed from the Australian market in 1987 following the increasing use of MRI scans.


Paster Patrick Marshall shares his story of being in the war and injuring his back.
Paster Patrick Marshall shares his story of being in the war and injuring his back. Tom Huntley


IT was in hospital where Patrick discovered God and The Bible.

One day when the trolley lady came around with an assortment of women's magazines to read, Patrick said he was going to read The Bible instead.

"During my year in hospital I was introduced to a fellow that occupied the bed next to mine. Jim Williams was a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian and in the 14 days we had in hospital he had given me a Bible to read," he said.

"It took me 58 hours to read the 1423 pages of the bible that Jim had given to me and even though I didn't understand a lot of what I was reading, I knew enough to realise that what I had in my hand was the Word of God."

His first church appearance in the late 1960s led to Patrick meeting the love of his life Margot.

"She was the most beautiful women I had ever met," Patrick gushed.

In 1988 Patrick was ordained as a minister (pastor) of the World Wide Seventh-Day Adventist Church.


A disease caused by corrosive action of certain dyes that have been used in spinal X-ray imaging.

Chemical Iopnendylate was used as an imaging dye to be injected into the spinal canal before x-rays.

Used prominently in myelogram procedures.

British Pharmaceutical companies Glaxo and Eastman Kodak manufactured chemicals Pantopaque and Myodil between 1944-1988.

Paster Patrick Marshall shares his story of being in the war and injuring his back.
Paster Patrick Marshall shares his story of being in the war and injuring his back. Tom Huntley

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