Plymouth mum-of-five sets up support group for bereaved following the death of her husband
A MUM-of-five whose husband died from a brain tumour eight months ago is hoping to help other bereaved families at her new support group.
Martin Harris died last June at the age of 32 – just seven weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
He left behind his wife Leah,33, and their five young children Devon, 12, Fernley, 7, Freya, 5, Stanley, 4, and Daley, 1.
And now his heartbroken wife Leah is hoping to help other bereaved widows and widowers with young children come to terms with their grief with the launch of her weekly bereavement group, called Legacy.
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"When Martin died I just laid on the sofa for two weeks crying – I didn't move. I was like a zombie with tears constantly streaming down my face," said Leah, who lives in St Jude's.
"I had a close friend who lost her husband three months after me and we have helped each other with the grief. It was so beneficial to both of us to have each other because we knew exactly what it was like and that's where the idea of the bereavement group came from.
"Even if I just help one person, it's worth doing, just to make someone's life that little bit easier."
Martin, a builder, had been having symptoms since August 2011, but didn't realise.
Leah said: "His personality started to change, he was always so placid but he started to become a bit unreasonable , irritable, tired and argumentative.
"Then the headaches started. He would fall asleep all the time and couldn't get out of bed. But it then got to the point where he couldn't lift his head up or down.
"He was sent for a CT and MRI scan at Derriford Hospital and as we were leaving the hospital car park on April 19 we got a call to say we needed to go straight back in – that's when they found a tumour."
Martin had a biopsy on the tumour on April 26, on his son Daley's first birthday. But, just a few days later, whilst waiting for the results, he was left unconscious and rushed straight into theatre after having a convulsion.
The surgeons found an aggressive malignant tumour the size of an apple in the frontal lobe of Martin's brain.
Following two weeks in hospital after the surgery, Martin returned home during the middle of May. But just two weeks later he began suffering chest pains and breathing difficulties.
Leah said: "I'd just got my husband back, and he was himself again, the man I married. But then I got a phone call to say he had been taken back into theatre."
Doctors had found that Martin's lungs were filled with fluid, had blood clots on them, one had collapsed and the other was only working at a quarter of its capacity. He also had pneumonia and a chest infection.
But, following two more operations and two more weeks in hospital, Martin recovered and was discharged for the second time.
"He came home on Sunday June 10, but I knew deep down that he was just coming home to say goodbye to the children. I knew he still wasn't well," said Leah.
"He spent the whole of the day and night curled up with all five children on the sofa, but the next day I had to call an ambulance to get him back to hospital. He was in agony with his head again."
Martin suffered another convulsion whilst in hospital and was rushed straight into resuscitation.
Leah said: "The doctors said they couldn't operate again because he was too ill. They also said that because the tumour was so aggressive there wasn't much point.
"But he finally came around and when he did he asked me why I was crying.
"I just shrugged it off and he laughed, but he had a tear too. I'd never seen him cry before. He told me he loved me and closed his eyes. Those were the last words he ever spoke.
"I spent the next few days in the hospital bed with him just holding him tightly. I wouldn't move from his side. On the Wednesday morning at around 5.30am I whispered to him that he needed to let go, and at 6.50am he passed away. He always listened to me."
Leah's Legacy bereavement group launches on Thursday February 21, from 10am-12pm, at Street Factory Studios on Cobourg Street.
It will run every Thursday at the same time and is open to any widows and widowers who have young children up to the age of five. The group, which also offers provisions for children to play with, will also run throughout the school holidays, when it is open to children of all ages.