This story is part of the Guts UK Pancreatitis Awareness Campaign.
Our family knew nothing about pancreatitis until we were in the middle of our dad/husband/grandad, Brian Narramore’s, first acute attack in Spring of this year.
We never really got to understand the brutality of this condition until he experienced his second attack at the end of June and died nine days later on the 2nd July. The seriousness of the illness left us all reeling and four months on we are still trying to work out what happened.
Dads health was pretty good for a robust 72 year old! He had a couple of health scares over the years but had been really well for a long while and prided himself on what he described as his ‘cast iron constitution’. Therefore when he woke up with severe pains our first thought was ‘heart attack’. He was taken into hospital by ambulance and monitored, none of his symptoms suggested a heart related condition. Instead possible gallstones were suggested as the cause – sadly no stones were found.
Dad spent a week in hospital whilst they attempted to stabilise him and necrotising pancreatitis was diagnosed. There was a lot of talking at dad about alcohol; the confusing thing was that dad did enjoy a drink with family and friends but wasn’t a daily drinker and had never had a problematic relationship with alcohol. Dad was poorly and (although didn’t admit it!) was upset at feeling judged by his lifestyle choices.
Dad was discharged home and had a follow up appointment for a scan of his pancreas in May, it was suggested that things looked stable; but it was clear that Dad, an incredibly proud Eastender, was finding things tough. His diet was so limited that he lost significant amounts of weight and his personality that used to fill every room he walked in to had faded.
Father’s Day came and it was clear that despite my mums tireless efforts to try and support dad that he just wasn’t right. It wasn’t a surprise therefore when he went back into hospital as he couldn’t stop vomiting the following week.
The week of his second admission was and still is a complete blur, as the complications of pancreatitis stacked up and conspired against dads already fragile health. Dad experienced multiple organ failure; firstly his kidneys failed and then his liver. The hospital liaised with specialists, but dad was too unwell to survive an operation or transfer to a different unit.
Dad went into hospital on the Sunday and by the following Saturday he had been moved into Intensive Care. My amazing mum, brothers and I liaised with the acute care specialists and what struck us most was the complete lack of options available to try and save dad. The compassion and honesty we were met with from the professionals treating dad was overwhelming. You could feel their frustration, it was truly palpable. They also reassured us that whilst the two main causes of pancreatitis are gall stones and alcohol, there are many, many people who get it and there appears no reason why. They also told us that it is this cohort that are the hardest to treat.
The hospital’s honesty about the likelihood of dads recovery ensured that we were able to gather all his grandchildren, who got to see him whilst he was still conscious. On Monday 1st July it was clear that dad was not going to respond to the treatment, following a consultation with a truly wonderful anaesthetist a Respect care plan was drawn up for dad to ensure his death was peaceful. In a weird way this enabled us as a family to claw back some sense of control in an uncontrollable situation.
Mum (Janette), brothers (Ian and Paul) and mums best friend spent the entire day with dad on 2nd July – we reminisced, we played music, we laughed, cried (although the boys won’t admit that!) Dad died just before 9pm that night with mum by his side – just as it should have been after 53 years of marriage.
Dads death has ripped through our tight family unit – how can an organ that barely anyone knows about kill our tough, resilient, amazing husband/dad/grandad.
This condition has stolen dads future; he won’t get to see his grandchildren grow older, he won’t get the opportunity to hold any future potential great-grandchildren, the adventures he and mum had planned have had to be altered (she is pretty phenomenal to be fair and I’m sure will honour them as much as she possibly can!)
I truly wish those people who have taken the time to read this experience could have met our wonderful husband/dad/grandad – words cannot convey just how blinking brilliant he was, we were just so very lucky to have him whilst we did and that is what makes the loss of him bearable.
It is absolutely crucial that people know about this condition, that there is funding available to undertake research, so that there are more treatment options available to those families facing this battle in the future. Our family will try to do our bit in raising awareness and funds, but recognise that collective action needs to be taken to make meaningful change.
What you can do:
The Narramore Family will be running a New Year’s Eve 10k in Brian’s memory for Guts UK. They have one aim: “to raise as much money as is feasibly possible, through as many hair brained activities we can think of, to ensure that future families can access better treatments and support should they be facing the challenges of a pancreatic illness.”