A Preston dad's love for his girlfriend who died of MND shines through as he vows to do a year of fund-raising for Royal Preston Hospital’s Motor Neurone Disease Treatment and Research Centre
When Keli Lee dropped her glass of wine, it was passed off as a clumsy mishap which happens to us all.
But sadly, it was the beginning of a devastating diagnosis of motor neurone disease (MND) which meant she only had 18 months to two years to live.
She lost her battle on September 10 this year, aged just 44.
Her long-term partner of 16 years, Chris Duddy, reveals: “We were sat at home one evening in late November 2017, having a glass of wine, when Keli dropped hers. I jokingly said I would call the doctor. Keli laughed and told me to pour her another one. We didn’t think anything more about it until a few days later when it happened again.”
When a couple of weeks later Keli experienced a pain in her foot, Chris made her a GP appointment.
She was referred to the Royal Preston and after seeing a consultant, admitted for two weeks of tests.
Chris, 47, of Preston, said: “Keli rang me at work saying they had her results but she needed someone with her to be given them.
“I went up to the hospital. We were taken into a side room with the consultant, a couple of student doctors, a young nurse and a lady called Wendy Bennett, who we found out later is an MND clinical nurse specialist. The consultant told us Keli had MND and had 18 months to two years to live. It hit us like a ton of bricks. Keli ran out the room.”
The couple decided to play down Keli’s illness for the sake of the six children they share between them from previous relationships and their four grandchildren aged between two and six, which Keli spent a lot of time looking after.
Chris, who works with his brother in the family firm Jones Cameron Estate Agency, says: “The MND team at Royal Preston Hospital’s Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Treatment and Research Centre was brilliant. It tried everything to help Keli but after six months, she had lost the feeling on her right side.
“As a couple, our big thing was travelling. We had been some pretty exotic places such as Thailand. We also liked walking in Scotland. Keli didn’t want to fly anymore so we got a camper van so we could still have long weekends away. Our last one was to Cornwall in the summer. Keli had a bit of a cough but we had a great few days. When her cough got worse, she was admitted into hospital and ended up there for six weeks. A nurse suggested Keli went to St Catherine’s Hospice, which she did for a time but Keli wanted to come home.
“On September 10, I came home from work and Keli was sat up with the kids laughing and joking. She thanked them for coming, which was a bit unusual. That night, we chatted. She was really chilled. She woke me up at 3.10am to tell me she loved me and to ask for a kiss. When I woke up again at 6.24 am, she had gone.
“All the way from the day we found out about Keli’s MND and still now, the support from the MND team has been the most amazing anyone could wish.
“The girls in the team say they raise around £2,500 a year and so I want to double that. I started with asking for donations at Keli’s funeral and this month I put up Christmas lights on people’s houses for a donation. I do this after work, which is time I would have spent with Keli so rather than thinking about it all, I want to keep busy.
“In March I am going to face my greatest fear - heights - by skydiving and trying to help raise money in any way I can.”
Chris and his family are planning a series of raffles, a January race night, a family fun day in the spring and an auction of sports memorabilia.
The MND Treatment & Research Centre at the Royal Preston Hospital treats patients from Lancashire and South Cumbria. It is one of the seven UK centres that it is part of ENCALS, a European network of research centres working for a cure of ALS, a form of MND.
With an aim to reduce unnecessary hospital appointments or in patient stays, monitoring equipment, funded by donation, is used by the MND team so patients can be assessed in their own homes. Specialist aids are also bought with donations.
Prof Suresh Chhetri, consultant neurologist, says: “Experts from top MND research centres across Europe have teamed up with patient organisations, fund-raisers and pharma companies to find a cure for MND. By collaborating together we can work more efficiently to find a cure for MND.” Donations to the centre are managed by the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Charity.