Widower in tribute to Airedale A&E ‘life-savers’

Elizabeth Tomes competing in the Three Peaks race in the colours of Keighley & Craven AC

Elizabeth Tomes competing in the Three Peaks race in the colours of Keighley & Craven AC

First published in News by

Glowing tribute has been paid to staff at Airedale Hospital’s A&E department after they twice saved the life of a brain tumour victim.

Chris Tomes says he couldn’t praise enough the emergency care given by the team to his terminally-ill wife Elizabeth.

Elizabeth sadly lost her life on April 22, aged 56.

But even when she was seriously ill, she was actively fundraising for the unit that prolonged her life and for which the Keighley News has launched a £100,000 appeal.

Mr Tomes said: “During her illness, Elizabeth had three emergency admissions to Airedale, and of those two were life-savers.”

The mother-of-two had been diagnosed with a tumour during October last year, and an operation was planned for early November.

However, she was admitted to A&E on November 1 following a sudden escalation of her symptoms, and an immediate decision was made to bring the operation forward.

She was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary for the surgery, and a biopsy confirmed within days that she had glioblastoma multiforme – a rare and aggressive form of tumour.

“We were told it was terminal and that the life expectancy was less than a year,” said Mr Tomes, 57, a project manager.

“Clearly, there was a period of adjustment, but we just got on with things.

“Elizabeth underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy at St James’ Hospital in Leeds. They explained that therapy could reduce the symptoms and maybe extend her life, but we knew remission wasn’t possible.

“Airedale had to stabilise her before transporting her to LGI, and everyone from the doctors to the ambulance staff – and the liaison between the two hospitals – were fantastic. The wonderful way in which they worked together to provide care was essential.”

Following her surgery, Elizabeth – who worked as a senior health support worker in the children’s outpatients department at Airedale Hospital – took part in a swimming challenge as part of the Craven District Council chairman’s appeal in aid of the A&E. She raised more than £650 through generous sponsorship.

“Running was Elizabeth’s passion, but she couldn’t do that anymore, so she went swimming as a compromise,” said Mr Tomes.

“She had been able to swim but never really liked it, so she went for a couple of improvement lessons before taking on the challenge. She was then completing up to 1,200 metres on each visit to the pool, and was going twice a week. She became very keen.”

But Elizabeth had to give up the swimming in February after the tumour triggered seizures, turning her attention instead to the Manorlands Keighley BigK 10K in March.

The Keighley & Craven Athletics Club member – who competed at running both nationally and internationally – had run in the event several times before, but this time completed it in a wheelchair.

“Not all the route was wheelchair-accessible, so we designed a variation of it and completed the course on the Wednesday before the actual race,” said Mr Tomes. “Together, we raised £1,841 – again through many generous donations.”

She also took part in a 5k park run in the wheelchair at Lister Park in Bradford last month.

Since February, Elizabeth had been cared for at her home in Glusburn, with support from South Craven district nurses.

“The support from the district nurses was excellent,” said Mr Tomes. They were available 24 hours a day and couldn’t do enough to help us both.”

He said the family – the couple have a daughter Alice, 23, and son Jonathan, 20 – had received a lot of messages of support.

“Elizabeth was well-liked– through her work and running,” he added.

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