To have and to hold

Tuesday, 23rd April 2019

Brian wrote in to us to tell us how grateful he is to have spent his final few years with his wife, Catherine, in their bungalow in North Shields, after she became terminally ill with motor neurone disease.

Thank you for sharing your story with us Brian.

"I first met Catherine when she was 16, she was at a bus stop eating chips and I stopped my car and asked her for one! She was training to be a hairdresser and I worked at the ship yards. We just clicked straightaway and after courting for a while I did the gentlemanly thing and asked for her Dad's permission to marry her. We were married just around the corner from here at St.Aidan's. We had our two lovely kids, worked hard, saved harder, and bought our home in Wallsend. Life was good.

"We first realised something was wrong with Catherine in 2012 when she started to limp when she walked, then occasionally she'd slur the odd word. When we got the diagnosis of motor neurone disease, I didn't realise what it meant. It didn't sink in that I was going to lose her and I think I convinced myself everything was going to be ok. There was no hiding from the fact that we needed to move home though. Motor neurone disease is a cruel illness, that affects the muscles and nerves, and it took hold of Catherine devastatingly quickly.

"It wasn't long before she needed a wheelchair which meant she couldn't move between rooms or make it up the stairs to use the bathroom or go to bed. It was impossible to adapt the house we had so we knew a care home would be the only option uinless we could find somewhere more suitable for her needs. We didn't know anything about social housing at the time.

"We had no idea we'd ever be in a situation where we needed help with housing, but you never do know what's around the corner and thank goodness it was there when we needed it. We were put on a list for a Karbon Homes property and marked as a medical priority but had no idea such a perfect solution would be found. 

"A specially adapted bungalow came up for rent in North Shields and we bid for it and got it. When we went to view it, we couldn't believe our luck. It was absolutely everything that we needed to make Catherine more comfortable. It had a wet room, a special toilet, and wide doorways and hall so she could get her wheelchair around easily. It had a little garden that Catherine enjoyed seeing our little dog, Harvey, running around in.

"Catherine was determined to make the most of the time she had left. She was always a homely person so it meant a great deal to her to be able to enjoy where she lived. It meant we could live out the rest of her life together, surrounded by her family, and we will be eternally grateful for that. Catherine passed away three years ago at the age of just 50 and I miss her every day. It's hard to put in to words what it is like to lose someone you've been so close to for such a long time. It leaves a huge void in your life and they take a huge chunk of you with them when they go. It didn't hit me at first but when it caught up with me it hit really hard.

"I know that Karbon is just a call away if I have anything that needs fixing and nothing is ever a trouble when I ring. I have arthritis from my time working in ship building and need crutches to get around, so the house means I don't have to struggle. North Shields is where I grew up so it was like turning the clock back when we moved here. It brought back lots of good memories and they have been a comfort since I lost Catherine. As time goes by I'm trying to get more involved in the community and looking after the area where I live, and I'm sure this will bring me new happiness."