David Chappell

This story is part of the Guts UK Pancreatitis Awareness Campaign.

On November 2018 Guts UK launched a campaign to raise awareness of pancreatitis and funds for research. Please help us by sharing this story on Facebook and on Twitter tagging @GutsCharityUK.

David Chappell’s Story

We are Rebecca and Harrison Chappell. This story is about our father, David. On 3rd December 2010, dad died of acute pancreatitis. Dad was a born and bred farmer, he loved his combine, game shooting, his dogs, and most importantly his family and friends. He had met our mother Sarah at Young Farmers; she beat him at tennis and they fell head over heels in love. In 1987, they got married and a few years later had us.

The illness came out of nowhere. Dad had always been healthy and never had any form of illness. On the morning of the 6th November (Mum’s birthday) he fell ill, he was blue-lighted to the hospital, where they thought he had gallstones. Later that evening we were told it was pancreatitis, with no explanation of the cause. We had no idea what pancreatitis was and unfortunately neither really did the doctors, we soon learned.

Dad was in a high dependency unit for two weeks. He was completely debilitated and lost a significant amount of weight. As soon as he had food, his pancreas would further inflame causing huge amounts of pain. The doctors decided to insert a feeding tube through his nose into his stomach. Unfortunately, he had a horrible reaction to the concoction of drugs and anaesthetic, somewhat worsening his illness. After the two weeks, he looked as though he was on the mend. He was moved to a ward and was allowed to eat for the first time. He went for potato salad: an obvious choice for a potato farmer.

After a weekend in the ward Mum got a call asking her to come in. Dad had regressed, the pancreatitis had worsened, and his organs were failing. The doctors made the decision to put him into an induced coma. He was moved to a specialist hospital and admitted into intensive care. Harry and I got the dreaded phone call to come home: we were at university at the time, Harry in his second year and I in my third.

Dad was in intensive care for three days. The doctors and nurses seemed optimistic, but it was horrible seeing someone so strong and healthy in such a sad state. We didn’t know what to do. This disease had come out of nowhere, we had never heard of it and we didn’t even know what it was or how it was treated. In the three days he was in ICU, Dad was put on dialysis, he had jaundice and his organs were completely failing. In the late hours of 2nd December he took a turn for the worse, he had internal bleeding. He was rushed to surgery, where his heart stopped three times. The surgeons managed to bring him back but he couldn’t fight any longer. He died in the early hours of 3rd December 2010, with all his family around him.

In the weeks that followed Dad’s death, all anyone felt was total shock. We held his funeral, which had an attendance of over 500 people, a true testament to the person he was. We wanted to know what had killed Dad, so started to research what the hell pancreatitis was! We found Guts UK (then Core) on the internet and made contact. They provided us with loads of information and suddenly we realised that this horrific disease was all too common. Dad’s mum died of gut related complications at the age of 51, the same age as Dad. Was it somehow linked?! Friends of friends knew people who had dealt with pancreatitis. If we had known about it sooner, would the outcome have been different?!

Almost eight years later our lives have moved on. Mum is in a new happy relationship; she has become a demon tennis player and has an incredible social life. Harry and I have both graduated, have dream jobs, bought our own properties and are in relationships with people Dad would love. In 2013, we held a ball in memory of Dad: The David Chappell Charity Ball. We raised over £13,000 for Guts UK (then Core) in the hopes that we could make a difference to others affected by this disease and improve the knowledge and treatments provided. Mum and I are also running the Vitality Big Half Marathon on 10th March 2019 to raise funds for Guts UK.

We all often talk about ‘what if’. We are hopeful that Dad’s fight was not in vain but we still have questions.

What can you do?

Join in our Kranky Panky Weekend fun and fundraise for more pancreatitis research with Guts UK. Check out some of our ideas here!

Or join Team Guts UK for 2019 challenges! We have places, so come on board! If you want to run Vitality Half Marathon, March 10th 2019 or cycle in Prudential Ride London 100 August 4th 2019 register here. Let’s go!

More information

Find out about acute and chronic pancreatitis in our Conditions section and read tips and suggestions on how to manage chronic pancreatitis from those affected by this condition.

The Chappell Family