I think we’d always been aware of Dorothy House but our first contact was after Sue had spent a particularly bad spell in hospital. I remember her first day at Dorothy House. She was transferred by ambulance and was in quite a poor state. I followed by car and when I arrived she was in a lovely room on her own and was crying (Sue wasn’t prone to tears). I thought something terrible had happened. When she explained that it was down to staff being kind it made me realise just how low her expectations were at that point. Within days her mood lifted hugely. Every time I visited she would be upbeat and tell me about what she’d done that day. She had a room that opened up to the grounds so we were able to get her out on a mobility scooter. The chats we had during that time were some of the last we ever had and I treasured that opportunity.
Dorothy House supported us in different ways. With Sue, the support was practical. She was in a lot of pain and it was only when Dorothy House became involved in her care that she received the pain relief she needed. Just being in Dorothy House was a huge relief to her because the staff (and volunteers) always had the time available to provide care. In hospital, Sue got quite down because of the worry about whether she would get pain relief on time, sleep at all and food she could eat. I was working full time and was trying to cope with two teenagers (one with anorexia!) so the carers’ group I was referred to by Dorothy House was really useful in helping me to cope with the stress. Having people to speak to who understood what I was going through was really important in keeping me sane enough to support her.
After Sue died I was kept very busy arranging her funeral and a memorial at Wells Cathedral. After the service I felt a huge sense of deflation, in retrospect it was delayed grief and the point at which I may have sunk into depression. I started looking at old photos and came across one of us sat in a Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment and I decided there and then I would walk Hadrian’s Wall to raise money for Dorothy House.
Work colleagues had already raised some money while Sue was alive and I’d had a vague notion I would do something to add to that total. The Tulip Fund was a good way to do that. It was set up in Sue’s name and friends, relatives and colleagues can make single or regular donations or add sponsorship from fundraising activities, and the idea is that the fund grows as a lasting tribute. Dorothy House keeps in touch with Tulip Fund holders, and sends an anniversary certificate each year with the running total.
The planning and training filled my time and I felt I had a purpose. Sue and I had done a fair amount of walking and I found getting out to train for the walk really therapeutic. If no-one was around I often talked out loud to Sue and was able to cope with the rest of the day by channelling grief into the time I walked. The more down I felt, the more I walked. Hadrian’s Wall was a success so I just carried on really. I didn’t want to keep asking the same people for donations so not all long walks were sponsored but since that walk I’ve completed the Cotswold Way and two thirds of the South West Coast Path (I’ll complete it in 2018).
Other people have raised money as well, taking the fund close to £20,000. By 2014, my walking had progressed to running and my first organised run was the Dorothy House Santa Dash. By this point I had a cousin receiving Dorothy House care. Her siblings started to raise money too and we all decided to run the Chippenham Half Marathon in 2015. This pushed the Tulip Fund tantalisingly close to £25,000 so I began to think about how I might push it up to that milestone. Running a full marathon seemed the next logical step.
As I approached the finishing line I felt a huge wave of emotion. To me it was the culmination of five and a bit years of a personal journey. The challenges have always been partly to raise money but were also a way of channelling grief and getting on with a new life. Sue would probably think we are all a bit mad. She certainly wouldn’t have imagined that I would run a marathon and she’d be astounded at how much has been raised in her name. I think she’d be proud and that has always been a great incentive.
If you’d like to support David, visit his fundraising page here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/David-Keogh8
You can find out more about our Tulip Funds here.