Super fan scoops award for dedication to Wigan Warriors as she battled rare illness

Dawn with mum Carol
Dawn with mum Carol

Wigan Warriors proved just the tonic for Dawn Owen, who defied death after contracting a rare illness.

She missed just two Warriors games during the eight weeks she was in a hospital high dependence unit battling the illness that has left her without feeling in her left arm, short-term memory, epilepsy and a stagger when she walks.

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It was all down to mum Carol, who knew Dawn’s love of the Warriors would potentially help her pull through.

Carol, 63, who lives with 42-year-old daughter Dawn on West End Road, Haydock, said: “She was really so poorly and I thought she was going to die. I knew all about the tests they were carrying out on here - and it was touch and go whether she would survive.

“They even let me take her dog Max in to see her hoping it would cheer her up, which is something they never do in hospitals for hygiene reasons, especially in a high-dependency unit.”

Carol, who gave up her job as a care assistant at Newton Hospital to look after Dawn, knew how much getting to the Wigan matches meant.

The medics even changed Dawn’s medication timings so Carol could pick her daughter up, hoisting her into a wheelchair and taking her in a lift from the third floor at North Manchester General Hospital… and drive her to the home or away matches.

Season ticket holder Dawn’s courage in fighting Neuro-Behcet’s syndrome has been recognised by Super League title sponsors Betfred, with the bookie this week selecting her as the latest Betfred Super Fan.

She picks up £1,000 and, ahead of the Grand Final in October, is in with a chance when Betfred choose the overall winner who will land the £10,000 prize.

Dawn was a senior analyst at a Runcorn pharmaceutical company when she fell unwell at work and had a stroke whilst in hospital – on the same day on May 22, 2011 that her sister

Hannah had been given the all-clear at Christie Hospital in Manchester, having recovered from a brain tumour.

Dawn said: “My illness wasn’t diagnosed at first because it is so rare and only affects 60 people a year in this country.

“I was transferred in an emergency ambulance to North Manchester General Hospital and was very lucky when I arrived because the doctor who treated me is an expert in this type of illness.

“Thinking about getting to Wigan matches kept me going. It was something to look forward to. They changed my medication times so I could leave at around 6pm and be back at 11.30pm after the game.

“The doctors and nurses needed some persuading, especially as they’re all football fans there and couldn’t quite understand my fascination with Wigan.

“I got to all the home games and also Wakefield and Castleford away thanks to my mum, who didn’t really like rugby league at the time but never misses a game now.

“We got to the Challenge Cup final against Leeds and I burst out crying on Wembley Way. My mum has done so much to help me and it’s only right that I spend the £1,000 on treating her so we’re off to London where we’ll take in a show… probably Phantom of the Opera which she has seen four times!

“My mum gave up her job to look after me after 20 years and really I can’t thank her enough.”

Dawn, despite living in Haydock, won’t be swayed from her allegiance to Wigan.

She explained: “I used to go to Sunday School and the teacher there was a Wigan fan, which was the team supported by my grandad Harold. He took me to some games and that’s how I got into supporting the Warriors.

“Who would have thought that it would be Wigan who would help me through when I was so ill? After every game I would start looking forward to the next one.

“Each week I was getting slightly better but the truth is I’m not the same person as I was before my stroke. I am a teetotaller but sometimes people think I am drunk but it’s because of the stroke.

“I am still on medication and have to have my blood tested every month. I must say they have been brilliant at the club, especially disability officer Louise Peet.

“I hardly miss a match nowadays, except Catalans away which is because of problems getting travel insurance.

“My favourite player of all time is the Australian stand-off Brett Kenny and of the current team it’s the skipper Sean O’Loughlin.”

Betfred boss Fred Done said: “We set out to find super fans and Dawn is the seventh we have honoured out of the hundreds of we have received. But there’s another winner here in the form of super mum Carol, so I’ve fixed it for her to get a Harrods shopping voucher courtesy of Betfred.”