Stacey’s dad, Alan, lost his life to Pulmonary Fibrosis in May 2022. She remembers him as sarcastic, stubborn to the end and the most ridiculously committed and funny human she had ever met.
After diagnosis, Alan and his family kindly raised money for APF and a collection was later held at his funeral, raising £2,000. During his PF journey, Alan took comfort in reading stories from others, knowing he was not alone. So, in his memory, his daughter Stacey shares his:
Dad served in the British army for decades, starting in the Royal Artillery and working his way up the ranks, ending his career in the Intelligence corps. He was stationed in places across the world, and we had the most incredible childhood moving across Europe. He was awarded numerous medals for his service over the years and was invited to the Queen’s Garden party. He gave us so much and sacrificed being with us, his family, for the safety of the country.
After leaving the army in 2019, we went on a dream family holiday to Florida. My daughter loved spending time with Grandad, seeing Mickey Mouse and riding rollercoasters. We had the most incredible day watching a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space station, which was my dad’s ultimate dream to witness – his face lit up – this will forever be a favourite memory.
We returned home, back to normality for a few months. This is where the devastating journey of my dad’s demise started after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. It was 2020, the year COVID-19 hit and the one and only blog entry from my dad trying to raise awareness for this condition. Dad wrote:
“It all started last year as I walked up from Scarborough town centre after a decent curry and a few beers. If any of you have been to Scarborough, you will know that it isn't exactly flat. I walked across Valley Bridge (a bridge over a valley) and up a small, but sharp incline. It was there I realised I had to stop to take a breather. Now, I have never been what you might term "an Olympic athlete", although after spending 39 years in an Army uniform, I have had my moments. At the ripe age of 58 (and still damn handsome BTW), I had put on a few pounds(stones) since the heady days of my youth, so I simply put it all down to that, age, and lack of fitness, and that was my first big mistake.
I found myself getting tired easily and generally felt unwell. So, after much persuasion (nagging) from Mrs H, I made an appointment to see the doctor. I arrived at the surgery and after describing the symptoms, she asked me to take off my shirt in order for her to attack me with a stethoscope. She confirmed I had crackling in my lungs - which was odd as I couldn't remember inhaling any pork products.”
After undergoing further tests and scans, dad was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
“Without a lung transplant, it is terminal, there is no cure. The progression can be slowed (there are patients who live 10+ years post-diagnosis) but eventually I will no longer be able to absorb oxygen into my bloodstream. I will keep working, I am not dead yet and I have no wish to retire (lock down drove me NUTS).”
By the time my dad marked his 60th birthday he was on full time oxygen. Mum dropped everything to look after him. The trips in the ambulances and the use of CPAP machines grew more regular while my dad taught himself about quantum mechanics and was reading everything. At this point he was also put on the transplant list.
Then our world changed. I was lying in bed on a Saturday morning when I got the phone call that we had all been dreading. We got to the hospital where we had just missed the dog visiting dad to say goodbye, the hospital was amazing and let him in as he had become dad’s service dog, a bond that would never be broken.
The radio was on, and dad danced away to Dancing Queen by Abba and we made jokes about what music he would want at the funeral - Elton John and Kiki Dee were suggested much to his horror. We watched some of the Sunderland match that was being played that day; even though he didn’t like Sunderland; he was a true Geordie and black and white through and through. We put his last bet on a horse (it won!) and we ate jelly teddies until dad’s SATs dropped again and the coughing fits became more regular.
Dad would stick his fingers up at the doctors that were trying to prepare him and us for what was to come, he made jokes with the healthcare assistant and nurses as he sent them on a wild goose chase looking for bananas. It was never going to be a serious death; it was actually a really funny day in the end. Then it happened. The lights dimmed, the beeping slowed down and he just looked at mum like he always looked at her, they were made for each other. He was scared, we all were, he didn’t show it though.
He fought, he was brave, he was the soldier he had always been.
The day of the funeral came, and it was the sunniest most incredible day. Our extended family of army and civil service members joined us, lining the streets to remember my dad, my little old pops. He had gained so much respect from all around the world.
As dad was lowered into his grave, draped in his army corps colours with his berets on the top, the buglers from the artillery played, the sun shone down, and the birds tweeted. It was perfect. Well as perfect as can be.
Pulmonary Fibrosis killed my dad in May 2022. The cause of this terrible disease is still unknown, and we are still waiting for an inquest into what the coroner found. Dad may have lost this battle, but he will always be a hero.