This is Barrie's pancreatitis story, as told by his son Paul, alongside Barrie’s daughter, Donna and wife, Helen.
“Our dad, Barrie, had recently turned 70. I’d consider him to be fit and active for someone of that age. So much so, that, for his 70th birthday, he did a 70-mile bike ride around Lancashire. This wasn’t too far out of his comfort zone though, as he did 40–50-mile rides a few times each week.
Leading up to Christmas 2020, dad had felt some very mild discomfort and had been to get it checked out at the doctors. They found nothing untoward, except for a minor infection in his oesophagus, which improved with some medication.
One Thursday evening the following January, after complaining that his tea didn’t go down too well, my dad found himself doubled over in unbearable pain in his stomach area. The pain just didn’t subside, and this was difficult to witness.
An ambulance arrived and whilst a maximum dose of morphine helped with the pain relief, we knew something really wasn’t right. The paramedics at the scene were excellent, and suspected it was some sort of blockage due to the nature and severity of the pain.
Dad stayed in the hospital overnight and my mum was able to speak with him early the next day, but she was worried as he sounded really quite unwell. COVID really didn’t help things, as we weren’t allowed to see him at all in the hospital. Instead, we relied on updates every few hours from the hospital.
We knew something was wrong because I could see dad had read the messages I’d sent him, but hadn’t replied. He hadn’t returned mum’s calls, either. But not once did we think his life was in danger.
Dad had a scan which confirmed a diagnosis of severe acute pancreatitis, caused by a gallstone blockage. As a result, he was rushed for further scans to detect the exact nature of the problem and how he would be treated. His condition worsened drastically. In the early hours of the Sunday morning, he was sent to intensive care where he was sedated. That Sunday was awful. The phone calls that my mum received highlighted his worsening condition throughout the day, and a new issue or problem seemed to come to light with every phone call. It became clear to me on Sunday teatime, just three days after he’d complained of stomach ache, that dad’s life was seriously at risk.
I went to bed that evening praying that I didn’t get awoken by my phone. I thought if that were to happen, dad would have a chance.
Sadly, that just wasn’t the case. At around 11.30pm, I awoke to a phone call from my mum and sister, who were together at my mums house and both were obviously distressed beyond belief. The doctor had just phoned them minutes earlier, to say that he’d been with my dad for the last 4 hours or so. The doctor said that nothing he tried was making any improvements. He said, and I quote, he was, “certain that Barrie was going to die tonight”.
The shock was something that that my mum and sister were completely floored by, as was I. We just weren’t prepared for that news at all. One tiny crumb of comfort was that we were allowed to be by his side that evening, as permitted by the hospital (even given the fact that cases of COVID were still rife in the North West).
The icy conditions outside made the drive a hellish one. Once at the hospital at just gone midnight, we were taken to ICU where dad had been for the last day and a half or so. His stomach and upper thighs seemed bloated and hardened and his hands were swollen. Despite having cannulas and lines in his body, in a strange sort of way he seemed at peace and we believe he knew we were there with him.
Dad’s life support was switched off as we each said our emotional goodbyes. This was easily the most horrific experience any of us has had to deal with. Nearly 10 months on, this is still so difficult to write.
Our dad was someone who had a larger-than life personality! His passion about almost anything was infectious, in particular his cycling with the lads and walking with my mum. He always tried to do things well, and with a smile on his face! If Barrie was in a room, you certainly knew about it, and he is missed so much by all of us.”
Barrie’s family went on to raise almost £1,000 after losing their husband and father to pancreatitis. Your support in Barrie’s honour allows Guts UK to continue funding research into pancreatitis, raising awareness of this misunderstood condition and providing information to families at a time they need it most. Thank you.You can turn a scientists' determination into life-changing discovery by supporting Guts UK today.
There is no effective treatment for pancreatitis. There is no cure
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