21 February 2004
The Bath Chronicle
Medics warned that multiple sclerosis victim would die 12 years ago THEY may never have said their wedding vows but for Francis Dowding and Ruth Edditts their commitment really is for life - in sickness and in health.
And the 58-year-old, who doctors said would die 12 years ago, is still defying the odds to stay alive.
Mrs Edditts was told by her doctors 15 years ago that she had multiple sclerosis.
Mr Dowding, who lives in Chilton Road, Bath, has cared for her ever since - and the brave couple still share the same hobbies and interests.
Thanks to the dedication of her partner and family, Mrs Edditts enjoys life, even taking holidays.
Mr Dowding, 64, said doctors' predictions that she would not live for much longer after a special food and drug pipe was fitted in her stomach 12 years ago, have been proved wrong.
The pipe, called a peg, supplies Mrs Edditts with all nutrients and any drugs she needs.
"The doctors said she was dying when we got her into hospital back then," said Mr Edditts. "There was some discussion about whether or not the operation should be done because she was so ill.
"Ruth's weight was down to four-and-a-half-stones. She was dehydrated and close to death.
"But when the peg was fitted and she could feed, she perked up and put on weight."
Mrs Edditts' illness was a shock to all of the family, but they were determined to fight it all the way.
After she became ill, her condition degenerated over the course of three years.
Mr Dowding said that the couple discussed the possibility of euthanasia when Mrs Edditts was first diagnosed, but they wanted her illness to take nature's course.
"When we first found out Ruth had MS, we read everything we could and it was a very short space of time before she crashed down," he said.
"I think caring is for life as much as loving is, and I resent the implication that other people should make the decision to die for you. Ruth's view was that she wanted all care given at all times and I am going to do that."
Over the years Mrs Edditts has been in and out of hospital.
Her most recent trip was because of a chest infection.
Mr Dowding says he is angry that each time his partner is admitted to Bath's Royal United Hospital, he is asked if he would like to let her die.
"The expression used by medical staff is: 'Do you really want us to give her all the treatment?'. That is upsetting.
"Every time, they ask if they can let her slip away - that is exactly what they say. The GP we have at the moment would never suggest such a thing."
Mr Dowding and his daughter Sharon hold 24-hour vigils at Mrs Edditts' hospital bedside.
Corinne Hall, director of nursing at the RUH, said: "The clinician caring for a patient has a duty to discuss all options for treatment to gain an understanding of the patient and/or their family's preferences, particularly in difficult or complex situations.
"Our aim is to ensure that when patients are admitted to hospital their experience is as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
"We are always keen to improve the way we look after patients and their
relatives, and would be more than happy to talk further to Mr Dowding about
Copyright © 2004, Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd.