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Team Sunderland coach takes on challenges for ‘Team Turnbull’ after family tragedy

University of Sunderland student and Team Sunderland Women’s Rugby coach Andy Turnbull is embarking on a series of challenges to raise money after losing his mother and brother last year.

Andy, who is studying a Masters in Sport & Exercise science at Sunderland, along with his partner and father have founded Team Turnbull to raise money for the charities that looked after his mother, Karen, and brother, Dan, in the final few weeks of their lives.

It’s been an incredibly difficult last two years for the Turnbull family, Karen was diagnosed with liver cancer in May 2019 after a check up to investigate an old problem.

Andy said: “This scan picked up a shadow. Doctors performed a biopsy and we awaited the results.

“A week or so later the results returned, and it was the news that we had all dreaded. Doctors were positive though and explained that even though the cancer was un-curable and therefore terminal there was plenty they could do.

“With the correct treatments my mum could live a pretty normal life for the next few years.”

Over the following weeks she underwent a series of treatments which unfortunately did not work and the family were left with the heart breaking news that nothing else could be done.

Andy continued: “During all this time my Mum seemed as fit and healthy as ever and took everything in her stride. After Christmas of 2019 she took a turn for the worse and was in and out of hospital between January and March of 2020.

“She was discharged the day before my brother’s wedding and on 7th March of this year, she saw Dan and his wife Laura married. At the reception Dan and Laura also announced that they were going to be having a baby boy.

“My Mum was very poorly for the wedding and a couple of days later was admitted to St. Benedicts Hospice where we were told she had only weeks left. My Mum asked to come home and she spent her last week in the comfort of her own home surrounded by family. She passed on the 23rd March 2020.”

Due to lockdown restrictions the family were limited to just eight people at her funeral and were unable to hold a wake afterwards.

This was especially hard as Karen was a very well-known women, having worked in Hays Travel for 16 years. She visited many of the branches the business owns and in doing so made friends around the country.

Andy said: “Our initial fundraising idea came from there, and myself, my dad and my brother decided to hold a charity fundraising night in March 2021 to celebrate my mum’s life and raise money for the charities that had looked after her on the anniversary.”

Sadly, there was to be further heartache when Dan was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with leukaemia at the beginning of 2020.

Dan spent the first six weeks of the year in Sunderland Hospital receiving treatment before being allowed home.

Andy said: “He was in and out of hospital over the next few weeks and was allowed home for his wedding. The wedding took its toll and Dan was admitted back to hospital a couple of days after the wedding. He was in hospital the day my mum died and due to the lockdown restriction, myself and my Dad could only visit him for 10 minutes to give him the news.”

“Over the next couple of months Dan improved and around May time he was given the news that he was in remission.

“The hospital recommended that Dan go ahead with a bone marrow transplant in order to greatly increase the chances of him staying in remission and in June he was admitted into the Freeman Hospital to start his treatment.

“Dan’s transplant was a success. Unfortunately, due to other complications Dan became extremely ill and was moved to the ICU at the beginning of July.

“During all his time at the Freeman, no one, including his wife Laura, who was heavily pregnant, was able to visit Dan due to COVID- 19 restrictions. Only in the week before Dan passed away were Laura, myself and my dad allowed in to visit him, but by this point he was heavily sedated and on a ventilator.

“Due to the sedation Dan was unable to acknowledge we were there. Laura gave birth in that last week, only 2 days before Dan passed away. Meaning he never had the opportunity to meet his son.”

After Dan’s passing Andy and his Dad decided to incorporate Dan into the fundraising night planned for Karen.

Andy then decided that he wanted to do more fundraising in their memory and has gone about organising a series of events and challenges.

He said:” So far this year we have organised a couple of raffles, a virtual bingo night and a virtual quiz as well as a having a family member complete the C2C miles on his bike (he couldn’t do the actual C2C due to lockdown restrictions) and have raised close to £2000 already.

“We have a number of events planned for the rest of the year and even more still in the planning stage. Those we have arranged are the West Highland Way five day hike, a 5-a-side tournament, a charity rugby game at Kingston Park, a beard shave, a weight lifting challenge and a big party night at the end of the year.

“We are also working on arranging a number of walks, a canoeing expedition through the lochs of Scotland, a 7s rugby tournament, afternoon tea plus many more and we are always welcoming more ideas in order to raise as much money as possible for these good causes.”

Team Turnbull have selected St. Benedicts hospice in Ryhope who looked after Karen and the Phoenix Unit based at Sunderland hospital as the beneficiaries of their fundraising.

You can donate to Team Turnbull’s cause at this link https://www.gofundme.com/f/team-turnbull-event-page?member=7758284&sharetype=teams&utm_campaign=p_na+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer