Generous friends rally round to help terminally ill dad return home to Northern Ireland
A terminally ill father-of-four will fulfil his dying wish of coming home to Co Down after a "phenomenal" outpouring of generosity from friends, family and strangers.
Senior mental health nurse Charles Polson, who lives in Jersey with his wife Joanne and their four sons, is hoping to fly home on a chartered medical flight today following a successful crowdfunding campaign.
The online page was set up by close family friend Donna Vibert, who sought Charles' permission to ask his 600 Facebook friends to donate £20 each to cover the cost of the specialist plane.
It exceeded the £10,000 target within 24 hours.
"It's phenomenal, but it's also a testimony to the love that people have for this amazing couple," she said.
The mum-of-two formed a strong bond with the couple, who have lived in the Channel Islands for the past seven years in heartwrenching circumstances.
Her son Nathan (19), who studied catering with Charles and Joanne's son Andrew, lost his life in a motorbike accident two years ago.
"Being typical boys they never introduced their parents, but when we did meet they became an incredible source of support," Donna explained.
"They would never have asked for this themselves, they are always last in line to seek help despite being the first to reach out to others."
Charles became ill earlier this year and was admitted to hospital on May 8 when his health began to deteriorate further. A day later he was given a life-shattering cancer diagnosis.
"It's everywhere," Donna said. "It's in his blood and in his bones and there is nothing doctors can do, it has been a terrible shock for everyone."
The devastating news came just 18 months after Joanne, who also worked as a mental health nurse, was diagnosed with progressive Multiple Sclerosis.
"She is not a well lady herself and now Charles has been given this dreadful news," Donna said.
"She hasn't been working for a while now and she needs to be home with her parents. They want to be able to care for her."
Charles, whose parents have both passed away, also wants to return to his homeland and be close to his sister before time runs out.
The bleak prognosis means that unless there is a miracle, he only has a few weeks left.
"You can just about cope with packing up home in normal circumstances but to pack up your house and not be able to be by your husband's bedside when there's little time left has been horrible for Joanne," Donna said.
The plane he hopes to travel on normally goes back and forth to Southampton, but he needs it to go to Northern Ireland. Aside from the logistical problems it also has to be staffed with a specially-trained medical crew, although Donna said there are other obstacles.
"There's a debate about who will pay for his health care once he arrives home," she said.
"Is it the responsibility of a health trust in Northern Ireland, here in Jersey, or is it the Polsons themselves who will have to pay? We don't know yet.
"In any situation they are going to need a backstop so all excess funds will be used to help the family set up home when they arrive."
The couple's children - Connor, John, Andrew and Stephen - will all need to find jobs when they settle in Northern Ireland.
Liz Mulholland, another close friend of the couple, described their plight as "horrific".
"They have nowhere to live and no income," she said.
"He was supporting her and intended to continue doing so - cancer was never on the cards, and I just hope people keep helping them."
With this extra pressure in mind Donna doubled the fundraising target to £20,000 and is on one last push to reach it.
"I have to close the account to release the money - I am urging everyone to make last minute donations or to donate cash directly to the family who are going to need so much help in the weeks and months ahead," she said.
She also expressed profound gratitude to all those who have donated to the campaign so far.
"I'm so amazed by the response," she said.
St John Ambulance Jersey, where Charles is a volunteer clinical governance officer is also raising money to help the family - so too are worshippers at Grouville Church where he has been an active member.
Last night, nearly 400 donors had raised almost £15,000 on the crowdfunding page. To donate, visit justgiving.com and search for 'Charles Polson'.