A Fermanagh family of five generations was reduced to three within a matter of weeks following the death of a well-respected local builder who lost his battle with lung disease only six weeks after his mother passed away.

George Guy (63) from Lack was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) in July 2019 at the age of 62. After battling the incurable lung disease for just over a year, George passed away at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) on August 17, 2020, six weeks after his mother Ruby died on July 3.

“We went from five generations to three generations in the space of six weeks,” shared George’s granddaughter Tamara Guy from Ballinamallard.

Sharing a photograph featuring all five generations of her family which was taken a few years ago when her own son Jaxon was only a baby, Tamara commented: “We always meant to get an updated one now that Jaxon is that bit older but you just never realise the time is gonna run out I guess.”

According to charity Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is the most common form of pulmonary fibrosis, with the medical term Idiopathic meaning that the cause is unknown. “IPF, in layman’s terms, is scarring of the lung tissue and hardening of the lungs,” explained Tamara.

The disease first showed itself in her grandfather as a consistent cough which doctors first put down to a chest infection or common cold.

“He was given antibiotics but it never shifted. Obviously then he realised that there was something more to it. Basically he had this cough all the time and he started to lose weight so we got concerned that it was something more serious,” said Tamara.

George was eventually diagnosed with IPF in July 2019.

“Granda worked as a builder basically from when he was 16 or 17 and he wasn’t able to do that. Even the most basic everyday tasks of getting up to go to the toilet or brushing his teeth or getting dressed absolutely exhausted him,” Tamara explained, adding that her grandmother Dorothy, George’s wife took time out from her work to be his primary carer: “She’s a trooper, I’m so proud to call her my granny.”

From the beginning of this year, George became more ill and was admitted to hospital nine times. At the beginning of lockdown an oxygen concentrator was put into his house so that oxygen was available to him 24/7.

Whilst George was in hospital over the summer, his mother who was in hospital at the same time became critically ill. She passed away peacefully on July 3. “Because of Covid, when my great granny was in hospital and granda was in, he couldn’t cross the wards to say goodbye to her when the family were called for. That was very very difficult for him and he had no visitors at that stage either,” shared Tamara. “I know on one occasion the nurses did make an exception and did allow my granny to go up to him because she was his next of kin and obviously had to explain about his mother passing away,” she added. His mother was buried on the Monday but George wasn’t discharged from hospital in time for her funeral.

“He didn’t get out for the funeral, he got out of hospital on the Tuesday so he didn’t get to say goodbye in the hospital and he didn’t get to go to the church then either which was very hard for him,” said Tamara.

At the beginning of August George was hit with another blow when his best friend died.

“His best friend died on the Monday and on the Thursday was the funeral. Granda had always been very private about people seeing him with his oxygen on. The day of his friend’s funeral, he just said to mum, ‘park in the middle of Ederney, I don’t care who sees me, just as long as I’m here’ and then on that afternoon his stats just dropped again,” said Tamara.

George was brought to hospital and the family were later told by a consultant that he had acquired a chest infection.

“We were told his body was not fit enough to fight it this time, that the transplant was definitely off the cards and best case scenario was we’d have him for October. That was the first time we’d ever been given a timescale,” noted Tamara. “That was on the Friday. Then on the Sunday he took a turn and was unresponsive and we were all called for. He came back around after an hour and he was laughing and joking up in the bed and then on the Monday around noon he became unresponsive again and passed away that night.”

“It was down to that chest infection that he took and on the actual death certificate he said it pneumonia. Pneumonia attacking his lungs and he wasn’t strong enough to fight it because of the IPF. You could understand why he was losing the fight,” added Tamara.

Less than a month after her grandfather’s death, Tamara is determined to raise awareness of IPF in his memory by undertaking a fundraising challenge for charity Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis.

“Throughout the month of September I’m going to alternate, 100 squats one day, 100 sit-ups another for the full 30 days,” said Tamara. She also plans to raffle off a cake and host a bake sale to raise money. Donations can be made via https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tamara-guy.

“Granda fought as much as he could when he was here so I want to continue that on for him and raise awareness to help other people,” she told this newspaper.