This is John’s pancreatitis story, as told by his daughter Julie.
John was a wonderful, kind loving dad who my sister and I cherished. My mam and dad would have been married for 60 years this year, and we had exciting celebrations planned. He was a grandfather (or granch, as we say in Wales) to 6 grandsons and a great granch to 4 great grandsons. He adored my mam, Sandra and always expressed his gratitude to his precious family.
Dad was a talented man and could turn his hand to anything. He spent his career as a contracting electrician until he retired aged 65. He was well respected by all his work colleagues and enjoyed showing others how to be great at their work. He also had a passion for art having attended art college in London aged 18. Both my mam and dad loved painting. His artwork hangs proudly around our homes.
Dad had been suffering with the odd bout of indigestion for about 18 months and he infrequently suffered from diarrhoea and nausea after eating certain foods. We put this down to a ‘sensitive stomach’ and no medical advice was sought.
Dad returned from a holiday visiting family and during the day of his return, he put a new kitchen cupboard up on his own. My dad was 78, but he was generally well and not on any medication.
Then, our world was rocked beyond belief. At 9:30pm, the same day, dad complained of indigestion to my mam. A couple of hours later, the indigestion worsened and he developed a pain at the top of his stomach that radiated through to his back. Dad tried to make himself sick, trying to relieve what he explained was a heavy ‘lump in his chest’. Eventually, he collapsed on the bed. He was soaking wet and grey in colour, unable to talk due the intensity of the pain.
Mam immediately phoned for an ambulance and called me. I came immediately as I live near, and I was so shocked to see dad in such a state. I am a nurse and I had never seen anyone in the pain my dad was in. I thought it could be his heart.
With his condition worsening and no sign of the ambulance, after waiting for 3 hours, I took him to the hospital. It was the most horrendous journey, he was unable to talk due to the pain. They quickly took my dad off me and wheeled him into A&E.
The doctors quickly determined that the pain was not his heart, and after a CT scan and an ultrasound, severe acute pancreatitis was diagnosed. It was caused by a gallstone that we never knew dad had. The stone had blocked the bile duct, causing his pancreas to inflame.
Dad’s condition worsened despite being on oxygen, fluids and pain relief. The doctor phoned us to explain that the condition can be life threatening and unfortunately there is no treatment. All they could do was support and monitor him. They explained that my dad needed to go to intensive care for closer observation. After 24 hours in ICU, dad’s breathing deteriorated and he had to be sedated and placed on a ventilator.
Doctors were updating my mum, sister and I. The information we were being given was bleak and hard to take in. Dad’s organs were failing and the only thing that could be done was support, whilst the body fought the inflammation. After being in ICU for 6 days , a repeat CT scan revealed that he was suffering from a necrotic pancreas (his pancreas had lost the blood supply and was dying).
Just 7 days after dad was putting up a new kitchen cupboard, we were called to the hospital to be told that our dad was dying. There was nothing more the doctors could do. He passed away after 10 minutes of the medication being stopped. We were in total shock.
Our family is sharing our dad, John’s story so that other families who have experienced a loss to pancreatitis know they are not alone. Whilst pancreatitis is not a hugely common disease, it is affecting too many people and far too often has a devasting outcome.
We miss our precious dad more than any words can explain. Losing him in just seven days from a cruel, painful disease has made our loss unimaginable.
Our dad was so precious and unique in every way. Our loss is immeasurable, but we have to take comfort in the wonderful memories he left behind. He was our ‘superhero’ and we are so grateful he was ours. We loved him with all our hearts. Thank you dad.
John’s family have gone on to raise almost £1,000 in his memory. Thank you."Our hope for the future is that the research will find much needed answers, and that other families can access the support they need. We support Guts UK, as we believe it is a wonderful way to raise the awareness of pancreatitis." - Julie, John's daughter
There is no effective treatment for pancreatitis. There is no cure.
Guts UK is the only UK charity funding a research fellowship into pancreatitis. We are dedicated to finding an effective treatment, a cure for this misunderstood and underfunded condition.
People are suffering, people are dying, all because of a lack of knowledge about our guts. Join our community and champion our cause by donating to our life-saving research today