I stood outside my brother’s window, throwing rocks to get his attention. Bill had never missed a day of work but his boss called me that morning to tell me he hadn’t shown up. I kept thinking I was being silly, that I’d find him inside, cheeky and sheepish, and totally unware of the drama he was causing.
But I didn’t find him cheeky or sheepish. I found him lying on his bed with his eyes closed, as if he’d decided to lie down for a while but never woken up. My beautiful baby brother was just 36 and he’d suffered a sudden heart attack in his sleep. It was like a nightmare.
You never think it will happen to you. Bill was the life of the party - happy, easy-going. He was a big kid who loved his family and would do anything for a mate. Looking back, there were signs: he’d had some chest pains and just a few days before had been sweating ridiculously as we moved furniture. I told him he should go to the doctor but I never insisted.
He was everyone in the family’s favourite. We all took his death really, really hard. It was awful for my kids. If I could take that pain off them I absolutely would. It was devastating. The report said it was a cardiac infarction and that he had a 90% blockage in his arteries. But it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that my brother’s gone. And I would give anything to have just one more day with him.
A single father with two gorgeous daughters, my brother Darren was juggling it all and doing a great job. He was a selfless man which often meant he put himself last, and in turn his health suffered.
One day he was on the phone at work and the person on the other end of the line heard heavy breathing, then nothing. His colleagues rushed over but it was too late. Darren had suffered a sudden heart attack at his desk. My brother was gone.
The shock was something I’d never experienced before, this was real and it was my brother. I couldn’t even fathom how my nieces were going to face life without their dad. I think I was numb for about three weeks. He’d mentioned to mum that he’d had some indigestion, but put it down reflux or something he ate. Could it have been a warning sign? Would I have recognised it if he told me? Could we have caught this before it took him? Still now the questions whirl around in my brain.
Every day I live with my brother in my thoughts. And I share our story because I know Darren would want me to – even if it helps just one person we want his story to make a difference.