A woman ‘married’ in an emotional mock wedding to grant her dying brother his final wish, is raising money for Sheffield Hospitals Charity to thank the staff who gave him loving end of life care.
Amie Lake’s brother Andrew died in November after battling a rare lung disorder, fanconi anaemia (FA) for 17 years.
He spent much of his last few months on the Palliative Care Unit at the city’s Northern General Hospital where staff did everything they could to fulfil his wishes- including staging Amie’s wedding which she knew her brother would not live to see.
Amie said: “My brother asked if I would consider raising money for the Palliative Care Unit in 2017. Andrew’s reasons for this were simple – the care and love he had received from the staff at the unit meant so much to him he wanted to pay them back in some way.
“Andrew was diagnosed with Fanconi Anaemia in 1999 at the age of 10. It’s a horrible, life limiting disorder, causing bone marrow failure and a high probability of cancers, together with other complications both in childhood and in later life.
“At the start Andrew had regular blood transfusions and frequently suffered with infections. A few years later he had a bone marrow transplant, which was successful, and he managed to enjoy an improved quality of life after that.
“But then he developed breathlessness and an alarming cough. He was struggling to clear his lungs of infection and would regularly contract pneumonia. At this point he was placed under the care of a lung specialist.
“Andrew’s condition worsened and he spent little time outside of a hospital ward. He developed pain in his chest, his lung function began to decline rapidly and his lung infections became both more frequent, increasing in severity every time. After a time he became less mobile due to breathlessness and needed morphine to cope with the pain in his chest.
“Then he started to be violently sick, developed head pain, and wasn’t very alert. He was diagnosed with a stroke, and after that was never the same again, he was confused, angry and emotional. It was decided that he would go under the care of the Palliative Care Unit.
“The staff that cared for him were exceptional. They’d groom his beard, go to the canteen and get him cappuccinos and sit with him when he was feeling low. He considered them all to be not just medical staff, but friends who he was grateful to know. They were always sensitive to how we as a family were dealing with the situation.
“The staff ensured every effort was made to help Andrew achieve his dreams. The biggest of these dreams was seeing me and David get married. Our wedding was always set for April 2017, however in September 2016 we were told Andrew’s fight was coming to an end.
“At the start of October Andrew had a particularly bad night due to developing a lower respiratory infection. The next day Andrew told me he had believed himself to be a ‘gonner’ and it had hit home that he may not be strong enough to make the wedding.
“Andrew mentioned this to the nurses the next time they came to check on him and expressed his wishes to have a ceremony so that he could attend. The next day, he phoned me, asking me to be at the hospice for 3pm on Friday 7th October as David and I were getting married there!
“The day was unreal; we had flowers, bunting, wedding gifts and confetti. The reception area looked stunning and we had not done a single thing. It was the nurses who, on top of their ever increasing workload had set everything up so that Andrew could have a lovely day. They had organised everything, gone shopping for the smaller details and dressed the reception in less than 48 hours.
“Andrew passed away in November. People ask how I’m coping, I don’t actually know. The first few weeks arranging the funeral were awful, but trying to get back to normal after was the worst thing.
“Since my brother left me, raising money for the Palliative Care Unit is the thing that somehow keeps me going. Without him half of me is missing. I feel like I’m fighting to be happy, a lot of the time it’s a losing battle, but some days it gives me the lift I need.”
Since Andrew’s death, Amie has raised more than £800 for Sheffield Hospitals Charity through a mix of running events and climbing Mount Snowdon, where she scattered his ashes.
Sheffield Hospitals Charity provided £1.4 million to build the Palliative Care Unit, where Andrew was cared for in his final days.
To donate to the Palliative Care Unit, visit www.sheffieldhospitalscharity.org.uk/why-help-patients/palliative-care or call 01142 267351.