Belfast Telegraph

Gail Walker: vCJD victim's dad's inspiring love to the end

By Gail Walker

A few years back I interviewed Don Simms whose son Jonathan had CJD. I expected to be at his home for a couple of hours at most. In fact, I arrived at 10am and left around 5pm - wrung out and as inspired by another human being as I've ever been.

Determined. Awkward as hell with the medical establishment when the needs of his son required him to be. Driven by, above all, love. The heart of a lion and the soul of a lamb. Don Simms was - is - all these things. And more.

An electrician who sat up night after night, poring over medical books, all the better to go into Jonny's corner.

A husband and father who rallied the troops - wife Karen and their other children - to ensure that when Jonny came home, as Don was always adamant he would, he was cared for primarily by his family.

Don won the battle to have his son treated with Pentosan Polysulphate. Jonathan at 19, had a life expectancy of 14 months. He lived until he was 26.

Once, a pal of mine gave the Simms children a much needed night out. Don had asked me if I could get tickets to a sold-out concert; my friend invited them to his private box. The benefactor is no stranger to good deeds, but was astonished by the generosity of the Simms in return. "I don't recall anyone ever being that appreciative," he told me.

That's the sort of people the Simms are.

Perhaps it was love for his son or being flat out on the ropes that drove Don to his extraordinary eloquence. But whenever he talked of his son and of doing the right thing, his words were immeasurably moving - and, in the end, straightforward.

"If Jonny had said 'Dad, don't do anything for me' that would be different but he didn't," he said. "The promise has been made, we'll always look after Jonny."

As they mourn their son, it will be comfort indeed to know that he and his family kept their word.

To the very end.

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