This is Stephen’s story written by his brother Kevin with help from his and Stephen's mum and Stephen’s wife, Brenda.
There was a seven-year age gap between me and Stephen, so I always looked up to him. Every stage of my life, he’d already done it, so he was always there for advice. We were always close. Stephen was always a practical joker too. He loved comedy. He also loved technology and gadgets. He was the first person I went to when I had a tech question.
In early 2015 Stephen went to his GPs when he started with a stomach pain. Stephen always sought medical advice if he was concerned about his health. He thought it was probably just a stomach bug, and his GP agreed.
However, his pain didn’t go away. It was getting worse. After talking to his GP, he went to A&E. I think Stephen thought they may keep him in overnight but nothing more than that. Unfortunately, Stephen ended up staying in hospital for a couple of weeks. For a man that had never spent a day in hospital, it was a huge shock for us all including Stephen. About a week into his stay, I went to visit Stephen. He looked okay at this point, and I think we all thought he’d be out soon and well again.
A big goal for Stephen was to be well enough for his eldest daughter, Stephanie’s, wedding in March. When I heard he’d been discharged and was out in time for Stephanie’s wedding I was thrilled. However, on her big day I didn’t even recognise my own brother. I walked straight past him. He’d lost so much weight and had aged 20 years. The suit he’d bought for Stephanie’s wedding in January was now hanging off him. He proudly walked Stephanie down the aisle though and managed to stay for the whole day.
I remember chatting with him on the day about some of his concerns. Stephen was starting to worry about being made redundant and not being able to pay his bills. Despite being so unwell all he could think about was Brenda. I tried to reassure him and say this was the last thing he needed to be worried about. This was the last time I saw Stephen before he was back in hospital.
After the wedding he visited his GP who said he was a very lucky man as the condition he had was very severe. He still felt very ill. Two weeks later he woke early coughing several pints of blood. Brenda drove him straight to the hospital. The first I heard about this was from Brenda later that day. At first, we thought he’d be okay again, I took peace of mind knowing he was in the right place. However, the pancreatitis had reignited and caused severe internal bleeding that infected all his major organs. The next day Stephanie’s husband called me saying ‘I think you need to be here.’ I jumped in my car, picked my mum up on the way and drove straight to him.
There were tubes coming out of places you shouldn’t have them in. The doctors said it wasn’t looking good. There was pressure on his internal organs and anything they could attempt may cause further problems. I remember Brenda saying to him “you’re not going to see your grandkids you’ve got to wake up.” Even though he was unconscious we saw a tear run down his face as she said that. It was clear he was hearing everything.
When my dad and grandmother died, I sat with them the whole time. But I couldn’t do that with Stephen. I couldn’t watch him take his last breath. I couldn’t see him go. I had to sit in the waiting room. He was such an important part of my life. Within an hour of me and mum arriving at the hospital he was gone. Stephen died on April Fools Day. For a man who always loved comedy I always feel this is ironic.
We never knew why Stephen developed pancreatitis. It’s always remained a mystery. He was a healthy man, rarely drank. We all miss Stephen every day. The most unfair part of this is that shortly after Stephen passed Stephanie found out she was pregnant. Stephen never did get to meet any of his grandkids. A year after he passed his other daughter, Emma, got married. Brenda walked her down the aisle and she asked if I do the ‘father of the bride’ speech. I sprinkled in jokes throughout, knowing that’s what Stephen would have done.
I’ve ran 19 marathons so far and a handful of them has been for Guts UK. In my professional life, I work in marketing. When I first reached out to the charity I got chatting with the CEO, Julie Harrington. Back then it was known as Core. I helped Julie re-brand the charity and Guts UK was born. (However, I was a big fan of another of my ideas, Poo UK). I’ve been watching the charity over the past five years and seen how it’s developed. For our family, we just want to see an end to pancreatitis. We also want more research into understanding it. Why did this happen to Stephen? This is why I support Guts UK.
There is no effective treatment for pancreatitis. There is no cure.
Guts UK is dedicated to finding an effective treatment, a cure for this misunderstood and underfunded condition for families like Archie’s. We are building a community affected by pancreatitis, comforted in knowing they’re not alone.