'I think daddy's dead' - Family devastated after dad-of-two dies on family holiday
A grieving mother-of-two whose husband died suddenly on holiday in Bulgaria has spoken about the ongoing nightmare of trying to get his body home to Northern Ireland.
Julie Faith was lying in bed beside her partner of 35 years, Patrick Faith, when he suffered a heart attack and passed away one week ago today.
The Ballymena couple, who have two sons, were on what was supposed to have been a two-week break in the Sunny Beach resort with friends when Julie woke up to discover the 56-year-old had died.
She also told of the bureaucratic nightmare of getting the former factory employee's remains repatriated - and revealed how she is facing a bill of over £5,000 (€5,423) after her insurance company refused to pay out.
Speaking from her Co Antrim home, Julie (54) gave a harrowing account of the moment she realised that her beloved husband had died in the family room they were sharing with their youngest son Callum, who is 18.
"I woke up that morning and he was dead," she said, fighting back tears.
"Callum and I had been at a restaurant the night before but Pat, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease five years ago, wasn't feeling well so he stayed in the hotel.
"Our friend Leonard, who hadn't gone out either, gave him his medicine at 10pm and when we got back later, Callum went up to the room and everything was fine.
"Before I went to bed I heard him snoring. He was definitely alive.
"The following day, the alarm went off at 7am as usual.
"I nudged him and told him it was time for his meds but got no response. I just thought he was sleeping.
"I got up anyway and prepared his tablets and pushed his foot. He still didn't answer. Then I felt his face. It was cold, but I thought it was because of the air conditioning in the room."
But she added: "Then I remember saying to Callum 'I think Daddy's dead'. He raced across the room and started to feel for a pulse but there was nothing."
Alerted by her screams, Julie recalled how close family friend Leonard Wharry (36), who was staying in a nearby room with his wife and children, rushed in and also began feeling for Pat's pulse to no avail.
"I said 'Don't tell me' but I already knew he was gone," she added.
"I just squealed. I kept shouting 'No' but I couldn't stop myself. I just went into complete shock."
In the midst of her distress, Julie said that Leonard - whose family she calls her "tower of strength" - stepped in to notify the hotel porter, who in turn contacted the police.
But unfortunately for Julie, the horrific ordeal, which started off with Pat's sudden death in the early hours of that late summer morning, was only just beginning.
"The police arrived first and I remember telling the officers that I didn't murder him," said care worker Julie, who admitted that she was, by then, beside herself with grief.
"A female doctor finally came but that wasn't until much later, maybe noon. It felt like forever. We couldn't do anything or go anywhere because Pat's body was in the room.
"At one point we were told by hotel staff that we would have to move out of the corridor where we had been standing, because there were other guests in the hotel."
Leonard phoned the couple's other son, Patrick (30), to break the terrible news.
Julie and Callum were comforted by his wife Maggie (34), their kids - Ryan (15), Sophie (12) and eight-year-old Callum - and Leonard's 66-year-old mother Mary Teresa, while Pat's body was removed.
Unsurprisingly, both families said the experience was "horrendous" for the children, who were extremely distressed, especially 'wee Callum', who was very close to Pat.
Yesterday, Leonard, who was at the house along with Julie's sister Caroline, said Callum hasn't stopped crying since it happened.
The St John's Ambulance volunteer added: "Callum said to me, 'This means I won't be able to push Pat around in his wheelchair any more'."
The Faiths, who set off on holiday on August 14, were due to return home on August 29, but Julie spent over £900 to get her and Callum home three days earlier so that they could be with her oldest son Patrick.
But, as she revealed through tears, the anguish surrounding the former Michelin worker's death, is continuing.
Although a post-mortem was carried out on Pat last Friday, the family weren't told the results - "he had a massive heart attack" - until Monday evening, two days after they returned.
To make matters worse, the insurance company the couple have used for five years has only just informed Julie that they won't be paying the £5,000-plus costs of repatriation.
"They're saying we didn't disclose Pat's full medical condition, but that's not true," she said. "Pat was always looking for a bargain; he actually asked the salesperson to knock some money off the premium, but he was told that the only way to make it cheaper was not to disclose his ailments and I was horrified."
It has now been one week since Julie lost "a brilliant man, father and husband" and one "who worked tirelessly to provide everything for our family".
She still doesn't know how long she has to wait before she can arrange his funeral but she hopes it will be within the next 10 days now that the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust has vowed to help her bring him home.
"The boys and I are devastated," said Julie.
"We've already waited five days for his body to come home but the charity has told us they'll look after everything from here on in and it's such a relief because dealing with Pat's death has been difficult enough."
Pat's illness meant he was prone to infections that sometimes saw him hospitalised but his wife said he had recently been doing well.
Julie added: "Before we went to Bulgaria, our son Callum warned him that he'd better not be sick while we were away because the medical treatment wouldn't be up to Northern Ireland's high standards. Little did we know what lay ahead."