Charlie Crawford’s loved ones say that pain of the dad-of-one’s death from cancer is made worse by the fact that his initial misdiagnosis delayed his treatment.
Sam, Charlie’s wife, said: ‘People should listen to their body rather than trust that the professionals always know what they are talking about because unfortunately that is not always the case as this very much shows.
‘Just because you are young doesn’t mean that what is wrong with you might not be serious or make you any less of a priority.
‘You need to be your or your partner’s own advocate.’
Originally from Portsmouth, Charlie went on his first date with Sam in February 2015 – after which the couple became ‘inseparable’.
The ‘soulmates’ started saving up for their own home, which they managed to do in 2020, and welcomed baby Nellie in January this year.
Charlie was ‘besotted’ with his daughter, and ‘fell in love’ with her before she was even born.
Sam said: ‘Charlie made life bigger and better in every way. He made friends with everyone he met and I have had so many messages from strangers about how missed he will be.’
However, suffering with what he believed to be indigestion, Charlie contacted his GP at Homewell Practice in April 2021 and was given a phone appointment.
Sam said: ‘Without seeing him the doctors referred him for a gastroscopy which wasn't booked in until July 8.
‘As they didn’t think it was anything serious, and Charlie has always been fit and healthy, we trusted the length of time he was being asked to wait.’
After his gastroscopy, Charlie was told that he had a hiatus hernia – but doctors did not book a follow-up appointment even though he was now being sick after eating most food.
Sam said: ‘The doctor we were due to see was on annual leave so they tried to cancel his appointment.
‘I said that we would not leave until a doctor had reviewed him in person so they arranged for the emergency doctor to speak to us.
‘Charlie asked me to explain how he was feeling as he felt too unwell to speak.
‘As I was explaining that we believed his symptoms too severe to be a hiatus hernia and that he had not kept food or drink down for weeks he fell onto the floor and began to fit.
‘It turns out that he was so dehydrated his body had begun to shut down and his kidneys and liver function was almost non-existent.
‘I called an ambulance and begged for the doctor to help Charlie. I was four months pregnant and really concerned that our baby would have been harmed from the stress.’
Charlie was admitted to QA Hospital on August 9 and put on a surgical ward.
Having been told by doctors that Charlie’s condition would not be cancer, Sam says the couple expected that a quick operation would make him better.
However, they were later told that Charlie had duodenal cancer, but it would be curable with an operation.
At Southampton Hospital, Charlie underwent seven-hour surgery and spent 10 days in intensive care.
Although later the family were told that Charlie actually had ampullary cancer with a pancreatic sub type, Sam said that ‘everyone was positive that Charlie would recover and with adjuvant chemotherapy would be clear of the disease for some time’.
Unfortunately, the disease returned after 11 weeks and this time, Charlie was told that the cancer was in his stomach lining and now terminal, although it could be treated with chemotherapy.
Sam said: ‘We spent all of December in QA after he was transferred back to begin chemotherapy, me eight months pregnant on a camp bed next to his bed each night.
‘Weirdly we remember it as a nice time together despite knowing in the back of our minds that it would be our last Christmas together.’
The couple got married on March 31 of this year, as Charlie’s chemotherapy made him more unwell.
Sam said: ‘We had the best day given the circumstances as we still felt that it was a happy occasion to celebrate our love.’
Along with Charlie’s best friend Tim Farmer, Sam was holding her husband’s hand when he died at Rowans Hospice.
Sam says that if Charlie had had blood taken at the beginning, his condition would not have become terminal so quickly - or possibly at all.
She believes that the doctor should have seen Charlie in person after his symptoms worsened: ‘I think Charlie’s age had a lot to play with the treatment he received.
To alleviate the financial pressures facing Charlie’s family, Tim started a fundraiser which has raised more than £12,000.
Tim, who has been friends with Charlie since they met at Scout Camp, said that surpassing his goal of £10,000 has been ‘truly amazing’.
He said: ‘It is a great relief for Charlie’s family to have that financial backing, and any more will be a great support for Charlie’s wife and daughter.’
Sam added: ‘Tim and his girlfriend Jade are mine and Charlie’s soulmates in the form of best friends.
‘I can’t thank Tim enough for the money he has raised.
‘At first I felt like it shouldn’t be for us but as Charlie didn’t have life insurance and I am on maternity leave it will take away some of the financial pressure and mean that we don’t have to worry about selling our house yet and means I can still take my maternity leave and grieve.’
Dr Dominic Davis, GP partner at Homewell Practice, said: ‘We are all aware of this case, and know how desperately difficult it has been for the family – we offer our utmost sympathy, and have looked into the tragic events to see what, if anything, we could have done differently.
‘I cannot discuss an individual case in public, but we would be keen to meet and talk with the family if that would help them, and that offer will remain in place for as long as necessary.’
To donate visit gofundme.com/f/to-support-my-best-friend-and-his-family.