A Blackpool A&E assistant made a heartfelt plea for help after both his parents died suddenly within days of each other.
Michael Smytheman, 38, and his sister Shanna lost their dad Geoffrey, 70, to respiratory failure and pneumonia on Friday.
The family had barely had chance to process the heartbreak when mum Susan Burton, 67, also died unexpectedly at her Saville Road home, in South Shore, on Sunday night.
Michael said: “The last thing we used to say to each other when we said goodbye was that we loved each other.”
Michael, of Grange Park, was called to his dad’s house in Stoke-on-Trent on September 20 after one of his friends called him and said she had not seen his father in several days.
He arrived to find his dad, a retired RAF airman and aeroplane engineer, collapsed in his bedroom.
He said: “When I got there, his bedroom window was open, so I managed to push the curtains aside and I saw him on the floor making the most awful noises. I called 999 as I was breaking into his window and the ambulance came.
“He was unconscious for two days, until he started to come round and we thought he was going to get better. But then he started hallucinating, and just faded away.
“Then on Sunday night I went to bed and was woken up by my phone, and it was my stepdad, and he said ‘your mum has just passed away’.
“She didn’t feel very well, and she just stopped breathing. The paramedics came, but there was nothing they could do.”
Susan, a retired English teacher, had been suffering from COPD, a progressive lung disease, and had been taking antibiotics for a chest infection.
“I think her body just gave up,” Michael, an assistant at Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s A&E department, said.
“My dad, they think there was an undiagnosed tumour in his lungs. But the main cause of death was respiratory failure. He had been on the floor for a minimum of 16 hours before I found him. He was too far gone to pull through.
“We were devastated because it came absolutely out of the blue - and then to lose mum as well. It doesn’t feel real. We haven’t finished wrapping out heads around dad going unexpectedly, so to be told that mum has gone as well, I keep thinking someone’s going to jump out at me and reveal I’m on a hidden camera show.”
Michael and his family now face a hefty bill for not one, but two funerals, prompting his desperate plea for help using online fund-raising website Go Fund Me.
He said: “Because we live in Blackpool and my dad lived in Stoke-on-Trent, the funeral directors want the money up front, and that’s about £3,000 all at once.
“It’s so horrible that after the lives my parents have led, after everything they have done for us and other people, that their deaths all come down to numbers and money. They’re there one minute, and then they’re just numbers on a piece of paper.
“I felt so cheeky setting (the fund-raiser) up and I honestly didn’t think it would have the response that it did. There’s complete strangers that have put donations in.
“There are no words to express the gratitude that myself and my family feel right now to the people that have donated to this. Saying thank you just isn’t enough.”
Details of the fund raihttp://www.gofundme.com/double-funeral-expensesser are online at www.gofundme.com/double-funeral-expenses