Wayne's story is told by his wife, Melissa. "It was Wayne’s 47th birthday, so the boys and I video called to wish him happy birthday and he smiled. Not long after, the hospital called and said, “Your husband has a 50% chance of survival.”
Tell us about your family
“I’m Melissa and this is my husband’s story. Wayne worked as a tennis coach which he loved, so was really well known in our community. We met when he was coaching at the school I taught in. He said he’d lost a tennis ball outside my classroom, but it turned out he just wanted my number! We married in 2008 and bought a home together in Watford. We have four boys together, Max (14), Henry (10), Angus (8) and Rex (6) and both of our parents live close by.”
Can you remember the symptoms Wayne first experienced?
“On Thursday 30th March, I returned home from work at lunchtime. Wayne had messaged me to say my lunch was ready downstairs, but he’d be in bed when I got home as he didn’t feel good. But by the evening he was a little better and took one of the boys to football.
The next morning I went to work as normal. I was in a meeting when a lady from the office interrupted and asked me to come outside. My mother-in-law was on the phone, “Wayne has been blue-lighted to hospital with severe abdominal pain”. Wayne had been at home when he called his mum and she found him upstairs in bed in complete agony. I rushed to hospital.“
How was Wayne when you went to hospital?
“He could just about speak to me through the pain. Our minds were put to rest when a doctor said, “It’s the better one of the two things. It’s not an abdominal aneurysm, it’s pancreatitis. He should be in hospital for a few days, and then back at home”. I was so worried seeing him in so much pain, as Wayne wasn’t one to complain. Hospital staff asked me, “Does he drink or smoke?”. I explained that one shandy a fortnight is more than enough for Wayne! Eventually, they found a gallstone that might’ve caused the pancreatitis.
On Sunday I took the boys to football but my brother came too just in case I had to head off quickly. It was Wayne’s 47th birthday, so the boys and I video called to wish him happy birthday and he smiled. Not long after, the hospital called and said, “Your husband has a 50% chance of survival.” He was in intensive care. I collapsed on my brother, then went straight to hospital and from then onwards, spent most of my time there.
Wayne’s hadn’t responded to supportive treatment like they’d hoped. He was very sick, and had moments where he was delusional with all the medication too which is hard to see. The following days were full of further complications, but he had been so healthy, and even the occupational therapist was planning for his return home.
Just two weeks after Wayne was admitted into hospital, we were called to come and say goodbye to him. We sat with him as he drifted away. He died on the 14th April.”
Talk us through the weeks that followed his death
“Family surrounded me. It was hard explaining to the boys what happened, and I remember Googling, “How do you tell your children their parent has died?” But our family did all the thinking for the us. They fed us and clothed us at a time I couldn’t even think. Wayne didn’t like talking about death or funerals, which made it hard to plan his funeral. Having so many people who loved him around me helped me make decisions. We chose his funeral at the church we got married in, and one of his funeral songs was the same one we signed the marriage register to.
I spent time on the internet looking for information and answers, and I found Guts UK’s information. I thought “what a great, funny name for a charity”. On that day, I quickly realised how people put their heart, soul and life’s work into fundraising for charities. How can there be a condition that there is no treatment for in today’s world? 18 months prior to his death, Wayne ran the London Marathon. He was healthy and fit.
Wayne’s funeral was lovely. He had touched a lot of lives through his tennis coaching, young and old, and so many were there to remember him. We received hundreds of cards that I have kept. We fundraised for Guts UK in Wayne’s memory, and his best friend Paul is taking on the London Marathon for Wayne next year for Guts UK. They had dreamed to do it together one day, but we will be there to cheer Paul on.”
How are you now?
“Early on, I took long walks outdoors to clear my mind. More recently, the boys and I have a family worker at the boys’ school we can talk to. Some days are better than others, and I find that if I focus on what the boys and I need now, if I focus on today, it feels more do-able.
I listen to podcasts about grief, and reading Guts UK’s Kranky Panky stories helps. The boys amaze me with their ability to continue, and dip in and out of their grief. I desperately miss my life partner. I’m so grateful for family seeing me through the toughest times.
I’m sharing our family’s story today in the hope that this can resonate with somebody, like other stories have for me. I want to heighten the awareness for pancreatitis ‘awareness’ isn’t a term I truly understood until Wayne died. Wayne was very kind, and he would’ve wanted to help others. I want people to know how wonderful he was, and how much he loved his boys. Wayne would want the boys to carry on and achieve everything they want to, he wouldn’t have wanted their lives to alter because he’s not there. It’s my job to make sure that happens.”
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.