A Burgess Hill woman whose dad died of cancer a day after she underwent a kidney transplant has completed a wing walk for charity.
Gayle Howard took to the skies at Damyns Hall Aerodrome in Essex, and has raised almost £4,000 for St Peter and St James Hospice – which looked after her dad, David, in his last days.
She said: “I have a fear of heights but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be – I really enjoyed it, we were going over 100 miles an hour!
“The hospice is incredible. They treated dad with respect and gave him his dignity until the day he died.
“They provide care for the families as well – even after the person has died they provide support. Saying thank you to them was not enough.”
Gayle, 52, became unwell five years ago. She started being sick and was off work for two years.
I have a fear of heights but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.Gayle Howard
She was diagnosed with gastroparesis – a disease in which the stomach cannot empty itself of food in a normal fashion. But it soon became apparent that she needed a kidney transplant.
Gayle was put on the transplant waiting list but her sister, Leigh, 53, wanted to give her one of her kidneys after coming back as an exact match.
“My sister is just unbelievable,” said Gayle.
“I still can’t get my head around it. It is a massive thing to do, and she has two children, it is a life-threatening operation.”
Gayle and Leigh had to go up to London for the operation. While they were there, their dad’s condition deteriorated at the hospice.
“Dad died at 4am in the morning the day after we had the surgery,” said Gayle.
“He held on to see if we were OK as his two girls were going into surgery – he was very worried. He knew we were OK before he died.”
Gayle has been given a new lease of life and for the first time in five years she feels well. She said the whole experience has been ‘surreal’.
“Looking back I don’t think I realised how ill I was,” she said.
“I was just spending any time I could with my dad at the hospice and I was supporting my mum.”
Her husband, Les, 56, said he was ‘chuffed to bits for her’.
“It is fantastic for me to see her so well,” he said.
“I had to watch her be sick every day. It is hard for anybody to see that – no-one wants to see their loved one suffering.
“I am amazed at Gayle’s sister too – it is quite an amazing thing to do, to give someone a part of your body.
“Gayle did so well on the wing walk. She is a very determined person and if she is going to do something she will do it.”
The couple, who have been married for 24 years, are now making the most out of life since Gayle had the transplant.
“Life is too short,” said Les, adding: “We are both very active people and love going to gigs and theatres. So, we are doing anything we can at the moment.”
Gayle said she wants to carry on supporting St Peter and St James Hospice.
She thanked everyone for their kind donations.
To make a donation, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GayleHoward.