Gary was 6.3" tall and a great big, lovable teddy bear of a man. I met him when I was 16 and we were married for 25 years. He was the father of my three precious children, and even though we were no longer married, he was (and is) still family to me. I could not imagine a world without him in it. He meant the world to me, his wife, Margaret (Gosia) and our three children. We called him Big Papa Bear because of his size and his giant heart. Gary had such a tender heart and was one of the most generous men you could ever meet. He was that guy who'd take the shirt off his back or give his last pennies to help someone in need. If we had all the money he'd given to others, his life would have been saved and he'd have had no stress.
In recent years, Gary suffered a major economic setback. He was not able to keep up his medical insurance payments and to top it off, was dealing with climbing debt and then he became very ill. He didn't tell anyone how serious it was until it became unbearable. My daughter Candice took him to the family GP, who took one look at him and said he needed to go the emergency room. In South Africa, if you have no medical insurance, you have only one option and that is to go to a government hospital. You can't imagine how awful it is. Gary was in excruciated agony and needed to be admitted into ICU but spent the night slumped in a wheelchair awaiting help. My kids had to listen to him screaming in pain as a kidney stone became lodged in the urethra, shredding it and causing an infection so severe, he developed sepsis and went into septic shock. The hospital eventually found him a bed and put him on a drip but they made a terrible mistake. Instead of antibiotics, they put him on a sodium drip. He was already in renal failure and this worsened his condition. His belly became distended and his pain was so bad it was as if he was being tortured. His loving wife and my girls were beside themselves with worry and fought to get him help while I (and a team of other dedicated friends) worked on raising money to get him to a private hospital and save his life.
We'd raised enough money to pay for an ambulance and were getting ready to move him to the Morningside Clinic when, after a bout of dialysis, they injected him with morphine and his organs failed and he died. My daughter Donna had spent the day with her daddy, comforting him through dialysis and soothing him as he writhed in pain. He was not given any pain medication and it was horrifying to hear his excruciating pain and distress. To my girls, it seemed like he was being tortured. He died just after 4 pm in the afternoon in Johannesburg (6 am PST in the United States) on January 19th.
I started this fund by donating $2,000 of my own and set a goal to raise a further $ 8K. My family has been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and even strangers to my call for help. Initially, I called out for help so that we could pay for medical intervention and save his life but now we will need the funds to pay for his funeral/memorial service and to support his widow through her grieving.
I'm praying for Gosia (Gary's widow) and my three children, as I shed my own tears and grieve this immense loss.