This is Steve’s story written by his son, Mark with help from his daughter, Sarah, and wife, Margaret.
Dad was an incredible man. Family legend says he was fixing household appliances at five and by his teens, he was building equipment to speak with fellow radio amateurs around the world. A career as an engineer, a teacher, and company director followed. He was an amazing father and a great grandad to Sarah’s two boys, who loved his gadgets and contraptions. Dad’s passion was for the Scout movement. He touched the lives of thousands of young people. He embodied the ideals of Scouting; selfless, generous and with an unending zeal to bring new experiences to young people who otherwise might not experience them.
Dad never really stopped, amongst his day job and various other projects and contracts. He was semi-retired, but his skills were still high in demand, writing software and designing systems for companies throughout the northwest.
There were no warning signs before Dad was taken ill. On Sunday 5th December, Dad was upstairs cleaning the bedroom carpet when he felt an intense abdominal pain. The next thing we knew, he was in hospital and, after days on strong painkilling drugs, by the Thursday, he was on a respirator. One week on, he was moved to a specialist unit in another hospital.
We spent the next two weeks visiting Dad when we could, and my mum and I had visited him on Saturday 18th December. Dad had been conscious and able to respond.
On that Saturday evening, we received a call that Dad’s organs were shutting down and there was nothing more that could be done. Mum and I drove back to the hospital. Sadly, Sarah couldn’t come, as her children had tested positive for COVID. We sat with Dad and said goodbye before the machines keeping his body alive were switched off.
We lost Dad in the early hours of Sunday 19th December, exactly just two weeks since he’d become unwell. How was a man so fit, so healthy and so alive taken so suddenly? Dad had just cycled up the 13.8km climb from Bourg d’Oisans to Aple D’Huez, a regular climb on the Tour de France. He did this in just an hour and a half. The fastest time ever was 37 minutes.
Dad walked, cycled, mountaineered, and just plain lived with the energy and vitality of a man half his age so how could this disease, that we had never even heard of, take him so easily? We’ve wondered since if a quicker diagnosis would have helped. The staff in both hospitals where Dad was treated were fantastic, but it took at least four days for them to get to the cause of the intense pain Dad was in. Would a wider and more in depth understanding of pancreatitis have helped?
Mum, Sarah, and I have fond memories of our childhood holidays with Dad. The only time he seemed to stop was on those beautifully long caravanning holidays to France and Spain. Dad made sure we stayed on tiny campsites, where holidaying Brits feared to tread. Those summers were a time for us to laugh and play. It was another gift that Dad gave us.
When I was younger, I often wondered why he worked so hard. He loved his work, but it was only later that I realised he did everything for us; for me, Sarah, and Mum. So, we could have everything we needed. So, we could be safe and comfortable. Ultimately, he knew that if something happened, we’d be ok.
It’s difficult to come to terms with Dad having been taken so suddenly in, what seemed to be, prime health. We take solace in the fact that Dad left us quickly, perhaps that he has been spared the ignominy of old age (he would have hated having to slow down!)
Over 160 people attended Dad’s funeral. Many were from Scouting in Blackpool, who formed a guard of honour which stretched from the church door, out of the gates and along the road outside of the church.
Dad and I had always planned to walk the Todmorden Boundary, a twenty-five-mile hike he’d completed as a young man. Sadly, we were never able to make our attempt, so I decided to do the walk to raise funds for Guts UK’s work into pancreatitis in Dad’s memory. Anything that can spare families like ours from the experience we’ve been through can only be a good thing. I thought about him a lot throughout the walk, and I’m pretty sure that he was with me along the way. I raised over £1,000. Hopefully, in the future, research into pancreatitis will reveal more about the reasons this disease takes hold and, perhaps, even how it can be treated.
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. We are building a community affected by pancreatitis, comforted in knowing they’re not alone.