Patrick went to watch football, and never came home. The youngest of our three children, on 14th January 2020, full of dreams, full of smiles, full of being fifteen years old, he had collapsed and died on Gloucester Place, in central London.
We had no one to blame, he received immediate treatment, good quality cpr from passers by, then paramedics, and at a hospital around the corner… nothing could have been done differently and nothing could have saved Patrick that we know of. His death is a sudden and unexplained arrythmogenic incident. We chose to believe that the angels had chosen him and his final whistle was blown, that was it.
There was nothing that could have prepared us for what was coming, and for that at least, we’re grateful.
We could not have been less ready either.
The messages poured in, they were simply overwhelming. We knew, very quickly, that this wasn’t ‘just’ a loss for us and the wider family, this was literally a shocking jolt to our beautiful Witney community in Oxfordshire, UK.
The next few days saw deliveries of flowers, cards, love, food, messages that I never thought possible. We broke the cover of our home sweet safe home late each night to march the streets, howl at the moon, and try, try to find a way to sleep, and then if we had to, wake up to the suffocating pain and do it all again.
Within two weeks, Patrick’s grampy, who’d been ill with cancer, died too. His sense of purpose had unraveled terribly quickly, and we never knew if he understood. We desperately needed help.
We made an early decision to reach out and to support a number of charities, with raising awareness being as important to us as fundraising – sometimes it feels awkward asking for more, more, more! We were lucky to find the wonderful team at SUDC UK very early in our journey, and attended a workshop with bereaved parents and medical professionals less than two months after our world collapsed. I still remember, and feel the gasps, the quiet, the sympathy as we introduced ourselves, our pain raw and fresh and a vivid reminder for others in the room.
The SUDC UK website was a lifeline, there were 3 other mums who had been though something similar and who wanted to help others, they gave us hope in the early days and still do now. They provided information and advice about how to deal with the coroner and all the paperwork that we never knew existed. Through them we found a network of other parents who were dealing with the sudden and unexplained loss of a child. We registered with the Foundation in America and received a pack full of information and an even wider community of support. When we had exhausted all the avenues of testiing open to us in the UK we were signposted to the SUDC Registry and Research Collaborative which may give us an answer as to why Patrick died at some point in the future. We would dearly love to see a future where sudden and unexplained death can be prevented and to save other families from having to go through thiis heartache.
Patrick was an extraordinary, inspirational, kind and fun-loving person to be around.
We remember him for his loving ways and the ability to laugh and have fun. Niamh and Euan said his comedy impressions and accents were hilarious and always made you laugh. His smile could light up a room.
At home he loved his weekly trips to coffee shops with his Mum. Saturdays were all about football and being a Swindon Town Football Club season ticket holder, meant he was off to watch them wherever they played. If that meant a trip to Carlisle or Grimsby or Oldham rather than Manchester United or Arsenal, so much the better. Playing on his PS4, talking (well, mainly shouting) to his friends online. Engaging in good natured banter with other football fans on Twitter. He had enough football shirts to clothe a small country. And every so often, we’d bag them up, and send them off to clothe a small country. And then replace them. It makes the family smile to think that somewhere in the world there are kids running around in an eclectic mix of his old Celtic, Liverpool, Lille, Waterford and of course Swindon shirts. Watching British comedies, like ‘Outnumbered’, ‘The Inbetweeners’, ‘Friday NightDinners’ and ‘This Country’ and simply just being with his family. He was politically curious and inquisitive, loved a good election debate and sometimes, when his parents thought he was playing with friends, could actually be found watching a political documentary or playing a politics manager game on his phone.
His absolute love for his family, his football, his endless cornflakes, and his real sense of adventure is what will always be remembered. In a Drama class, shortly before he died, Patrick had to write about who influenced him and how he would like to be remembered and he wrote; my influential people are my mum, dad, brother and sister and he said he would like to be remembered for being funny and kind and changing people for the better.
My, how he is.
Grieving for us was and remains an ongoing process. Time passes and we’ve kept learning, kept trying, kept making positive choices. We have returned to work and as a family we have all worked really hard to engage in relationships and not isolate ourselves in our grief. We have been open and honest about where we are. Whilst that’s deliberate, it can also appear that we’re ‘coping’ or ‘OK’ whether we are or not and some moments remain unimaginably painful and difficult for each of us. The waves of grief can roll in with unforgiving force. Therefore we are so grateful for those who dig a little deeper to support us, check in on us, involve us.
Our journey has been – and continues to be – incredibly tough, but we are able to take inspiration from the positive choices we’ve made, and we’re taking Patrick with us. I’m getting closer and closer to being ready for the London Marathon, and on 3rd October, I’ll be there raising money for Helen and Douglas, a local hospice who have provided us with incredible and long-standing bereavement support. I’ll be emotional, reflective, exhausted. I’ll draw on the resilience and perspective that the past 18 months has given me, and with hope in my heart, I’ll be doing this for Patrick.