Heroic Wigan dad Dave Hughes has died peacefully in the arms of his devoted wife after a long and painful fight for life.
Dave, 32, lost his battle on Tuesday afternoon at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle surrounded by his family after suffering numerous complications from a heart transplant.
The dad-of-one from Whelley was able to say goodbye to his 19-month-old son George, family members and close friends from his bedside before the machinery keeping his heart beating was switched off.
“I’ve held my gorgeous husband in my arms as he passed into a deep sleep,” said his wife Louise. “He isn’t suffering anymore and I’ve never been as proud to call him my husband.”
Dave has fought serious health problems for more than three decades after being born with a congenital heart defect meaning that his main arteries were the wrong way round. He was told just over five years ago that he would have no chance of surviving without a heart transplant.
But Dave gained renewed strength when he met his future wife Louise in a Wigan pub in 2012. The couple went on to get engaged and have George, who became the apple of his dad’s eye and his drive for recovery.
During his agonising wait for a new heart, the brave family suffered numerous setbacks and were forced to spend time apart as Dave would often endure stays in the hospital which is 160 miles from his Wigan home.
On one occasion, the family received the call they had been waiting for and rushed up to Newcastle with Dave to see him into surgery only to be told that the operation was to be cancelled once he had gone into theatre.
But despite this, the inspirational couple did not give up and used Dave’s story to raise vital awareness for organ donation, highlighting a serious lack of organs within the NHS pool.
Whilst Dave has been in hospital, Louise has campaigned long and hard for her husband, telling the story of his bravery in the hope that people will sign the donor register and help other families in the same position as her.
Before the operation, Dave himself spoke about the importance of signing the donor register, saying: "I believe that everybody has their own choice and everybody has their own fortune.
"But if it was someone in your family or someone close to you, there wouldn’t be many people who would opt out. If someone said to me, your last day on this earth would be to save up to eight lives I would jump at the chance.”
Back in February as Dave’s health was beginning to decline - he finally received the life-changing call and the family travelled once again to the Freeman Heart Unit for him to undergo the gruelling surgery.
Following a 12-hour operation he was brought out of theatre but was soon rushed back in due to massive blood loss.
In the next few weeks, loyal Louise continued to keep a hospital vigil until Dave had gained enough strength to be brought round from his two and a half week sedation.
The couple, elated to be reunited and with Dave looking like he was slowly on the mend, planned their long-anticipated wedding for March 23 - a month after Dave first went in for his operation.
The ceremony, an intimate affair with only nine close family members and friends including baby George, was arranged by hospital staff and tailored to fit Dave’s needs.
Sadly, just six weeks into their marriage, Dave’s health began to deteriorate. After being fitted with the Berlin Heart - a device which performs the beating function of the heart to allow a patient chance to recover, surgeons grew more and more concerned that the new heart may never work.
It had shown initial signs of beating but tragically in the days before Dave’s death, the organ had not been working without the aid of the machine.
Under current medical guidance, patients can only ever undergo two heart transplants as the human body is not equipped to withstand anymore surgery in this area.
In order to have another heart transplant Dave would have had to regained enough strength to undergo the significantly more risky procedure - facing another 12-hour operation at least and another wait for the perfect heart.
The suffering dad was also told that this might not be possible until at least the end of the year, in order to give his body the maximum chance of recovery.
But Dave did not want to put his family and friends through any more pain and over the weekend broke his heartbreaking decision to Louise that he wanted to have his Berlin Heart shut down.
On Tuesday, Louise broke the news to family and friends who were unable to make it to Newcastle.
In his death, Dave has left a legacy. The campaign launched by him and his wife Louise has seen countless more people sign the donor register.
George, as his dad’s first mascot sporting a baby grow appealing for donors, has captured the heart of people across Wigan and further afield, causing people to approach Louise in shops and in the street to say that they are behind the family and have signed the register.
Louise said: “I cannot believe how brave he has been.”
To learn more about organ donation or to sign the register click here