There is a bell in the haematology and oncology ward of Sheffield Children’s Hospital; its purpose is beautiful.
Youngsters completing their cancer treatment ring the bell to celebrate the start of their triumphant next chapter. For 15-year-old Jack Faulkner, the bell became the focus of his fight against the brain tumour that was taking a hold of his body.
“He was insistent that he was going to ring the ward bell and that he was going to beat the cancer," says Jack's mum Sally Westnedge.
“It broke our hearts because we knew he wouldn’t, but he never gave up.”
Jack lost his battle to cancer last October. More than 500 people attended the Totley teen’s funeral; and in the months since, an incredible group of men, women and children – Jack’s family, friends and local community – have raises more than £46,000 in his name. Inspired by the teenager’s remarkable resilience, #TeamJack - led by mum Sally, and dad Dan - are determined that the life of their ‘lovely boy’ will be an ongoing force for good, with every penny raised going to Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s neurosciences ward, and CLIC Sargent, at Jack’s request.
“Jack’s kind-hearted nature and warm sense of humour meant he was loved by many,” Sally explains.
“From the doctors and nurses through to the housekeepers, the staff at Sheffield Children’s Hospital became our family and all made time to bond with Jack. They did lots of little things to keep us smiling even on the darkest of days. We’ll never be able to thank them enough.”
It was last April that King Ecgbert pupil Jack began suffering with headaches and neck pains. After a course of antibiotics temporarily caused the symptoms to subside, his headaches soon returned and he was admitted to Ward 5, the hospital’s dedicated neurosciences department. Jack became confused and agitated, and emergency surgery was carried out to drain excess fluid away from around his brain, which had grown to ten times the healthy amount.
It was then his parents were given the devastating news that Jack’s headaches were caused by an incurable brain tumour.
Jack’s father Dan recalls: “It was devastating; your instinct is to hold each other, but I knew at that point that Jack was alone in his room, wondering where we were. So it was a case of drying my eyes, holding my head high and going to make my son smile again. You want to fix problems for your children, but I couldn’t help Jack and I’m still trying to come to terms with that.”
The family spent 79 nights continuously on the ward. His parents spent alternate nights on a camp bed sleeping by Jack’s side, ensuring he never had to wake up alone.
“Throughout his treatment, Jack never complained once,” Sally says.
“He used to say thank you after everything, because he knew they were trying to help. He had a heart of gold.”
A shunt was fitted to enable Jack to continue treatment at home, and he spent the final months of his life surrounded by loved ones, attending Tramlines Festival, shopping with friends, enjoying meals out and even taking a short holiday to Whitby.
Sally says: “I started to believe there was a glimmer of hope, and that Jack might be the exception, but it wasn’t to be.”
As the cancer took hold, Jack spent much of his final days sleeping.
Dan remembers: “He always kept his humour. By the end, he was awake for just an hour a day but he could still send the room into stitches with a well-timed eye-roll.”
Jack died on October 26. His brave battle had already inspired a real community effort to raise money in his name. In the months since, supporters have taken on a host of events in Jack’s name, including 10K races, triathlons and bake sales. His friends Billy and Sam ran miles every day throughout January, raising £2,600. His sister Emily completed a sponsored walk with her cheerleading friends and family. Local pubs have held collections, while long-lost friends have reconnected to pledge their support.
Rachael Thomas, community fundraising officer at The Children’s Hospital Charity, adds: “We’re so thankful to everyone who continues to dedicate themselves to fundraising in Jack’s name. The money raised will make a huge difference for generations to come.”
Dan explains: “It’s all down to Jack, I’m so very proud of the money that has been raised. Seeing the strength and resilience that he could muster in those circumstances has changed my outlook on life, and my opinion about what’s truly important. We will all continue fundraising for as long as we can.”
Visit justgiving.com/fundraising/jackdanielfaulkner to donate.