A grief-stricken mother has released the heartbreaking final text message from her 23-year-old son who thought he had flu – but died mere hours later of a cardiac arrest.
‘Having the flu and going to work really took it out of me,’ university graduate Patrick Walsh told his mum Elaine Walsh, 54, in Devon just hours before he died.
She responded ‘I love you so much xxx’ not realising it would be the last message she would ever send him.
Hours later his still body was found by police in bed with his headphones on, and it’s thought he died from an underlying heart problem he didn’t know he had.
Elaine told how her only child was living his dream of working in California’s technology hub Silicon Valley, when he told his mum he was feeling unwell but not to worry.
Elaine Walsh, 54, from Devon was left heartbroken by the death of her son Patrick, 23, who suffered a cardiac arrest hours after complaining of flu
Super-fit Patrick is thought to have had an underlying, undiagnosed heart condition
In his final text message to his mother, Patrick said he had the flu but told her not to worry
Working out at the gym every day, Patrick was seemingly the picture of health and fitness.
But in January this year, when Elaine, thousands of miles away in Teignmouth, Devon, unusually didn’t hear from the promising account manager in January this year, she begged her ex-husband John Walsh, 60, a retired American airman, who also lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico to ring the local police.
Paying tribute to the son she thought of as a ‘best friend,’ Elaine said: ‘He really looked after me and loved his mum. We had a special bond.
‘He loved his family to bits and would do anything for me. He had so much love to give – a truly caring and beautiful person.’
The fitness fanatic was always in the gym working out and seemed to be the picture of health
Patrick with his father John and mother Elaine at his graduation ceremony in Bath
Patrick, who studied business management at Bath Spa University before going on to the University of Birmingham to complete a master’s degree in business, took a job in Silicon Valley, California, at research firm Canalys in October last year.
Elaine continued: ‘It was his dream to work in California so when he was offered the job at Canalys I couldn’t have been more proud.
‘I encouraged him to live his dream and do what he wanted, but inside I didn’t really want him to go.
Patrick was found dead in bed with headphones on after suffering a cardiac arrest
Patrick with his parents and grandmother. He had moved to the US to pursue his dream job in California
‘We were so close, he knew everything about me and I knew everything about him, and I would really miss him.’
The last time Elaine saw her son in person was during a visit to the States in November last year, right after he was involved in a car crash in California where he was uninjured.
Patrick was close to his mother and spoke to her every day on WhatsApp
To this day, she says she’s unsure what happened – but thinks perhaps Patrick’s black out could have been an early sign of a heart concern.
Though Patrick spent Christmas in California, he still spoke with Elaine daily, usually via instant messaging service WhatsApp.
Recalling their final exchange, she said: ‘The last time I heard from him was on January 15 this year. He said he hadn’t been feeling very well over Christmas, like he had the flu.
‘I assumed it was some kind of winter bug he would get over. He was such a fit lad, always going to the gym and working on his six pack.’
After what turned out to be Patrick’s last message to his mum, reading ‘having the flu and going to work really took it out of me’ the pair agreed to speak again later that afternoon.
But when Elaine didn’t hear from him, she began to worry.
After ringing him a few times with no answer, she said she ‘just knew something had happened.’
Elaine became worried when she didn’t hear from Patrick as it was rare for him not to be in contact with her
Elaine said that she knew in her heart her son was dead before police confirmed the news
‘It was so unlike Patrick so I called his dad and asked him to call the police,’ she said.
The next day – January 16 – officers went to Patrick’s home but got no reply.
Then, after visiting his work, they returned to his flat on January 17 with a spare set of keys – and tragically found him dead in bed.
‘I knew they were going to find him dead,’ Elaine said. ‘I drove six hours to my friend Karen’s house in Lincolnshire in the hours before Patrick’s dad John told me the news.
‘I said to her “I know I’ve lost him” and cried all day before it was confirmed at 10pm that night. I was absolutely devastated. I felt like my whole world had crumbled.’
Elaine said it’s a small comfort that Patrick died at home while listening to music
Patrick’s body was taken around the town in a horse-drawn carriage
John told Elaine, who has been with her partner Kevin Phelps, 53, for 20 months after splitting from John three years ago, that officers had found Patrick in his bed with his headphones on, as if he was sleeping.
She added: ‘He had a cardiac arrest and we have since discovered the flu symptoms he was having were likely a result of the underlying heart condition he had.
‘It gives me some comfort, knowing he died whilst listening to music.
‘It’s my belief it was a very peaceful end for him.’
It took almost three weeks for Patrick’s body to be repatriated back to the UK, and then transported to his hometown of Teignmouth.
Elaine went to see her boy in the chapel of rest twice, kissing his hair the final time she saw him before his funeral was held on February 13 this year at St Michael’s Church, Teignmouth.
His body was taken around the town in a horse-drawn carriage, so the local community could pay their respects.
Elaine said: ‘I wanted everyone to see him and know it was someone important who had died.
‘People stopped in the street and did the sign of the cross for him before I followed his body, carried by his dad and stepbrother Robbie Walsh, 36, into the church.’
The Eva Cassidy song Fields of Gold – containing the lyrics ‘will you stay with me, will you be my love among the fields of barley?’ – was sung by an ex-girlfriend of Patrick’s whilst his closest friend Joshua Green gave a best man-style speech.
‘The church was absolutely packed and people came from all over the world to say goodbye,’ Elaine recalled.
An inquest at Torquay Coroner’s Court in May this year heard Patrick died of natural causes.
MUST PAR: Now, Elaine is backing St John Ambulance’s C.A.R.E for a Heart campaign, which gives four steps to learn to give people the best chance of survival.
C, is for find your closest defibrillator, A is for be ready to spot the signs of cardiac arrest, R is to know how to resuscitate using CPR, and E is for early defibrillation, which gives the best chance of survival.
Elaine has raised money from family and friends to fund defibrillators – equipment that can deliver an electric shock to the heart and restore its natural rhythm – that will be placed in Devon’s Newton Abbot and Paignton town centres.
According to St John Ambulance, up to seven out of 10 people who suffer a cardiac arrest could survive if they are treated with a defibrillator inside the first five minutes but many people have no idea where their nearest one is.
Elaine said: ‘Life without Patrick is empty and joyless. But I am determined to try and save lives for Patrick.
‘It’s important to get more defibrillators into public places, and if I can help save another life and prevent another family going through what I am going through now, then my son’s death won’t have been in vain; that’s what he would want.’
For more information visit www.sja.org.uk/care