Experience: I was orphaned at Christmas – and saved by kind strangers

We found out Dad owed all this money. Now his creditors wanted our house

On Christmas Eve 1996, I’d been out drinking and came home at 1am to find my dad, Bill, asleep. This was unusual – he was usually awake at that hour, worrying about money. My sister, Felicia, said he wasn’t well. He had caught pneumonia. Later, I heard him coughing, so I went to him. He was coughing up blood. I called an ambulance, which took him to hospital at 4am on Christmas Day.

Felicia, Mum and I thought, OK, Dad’s in hospital with pneumonia, but let’s have Christmas, he’ll be fine. Mum started peeling potatoes and putting the turkey in the oven. Then we heard that, because of an intensive-care bed shortage, Dad had been moved from Darlington – where we lived – to Bishop Auckland hospital 10 miles away. The oven was turned off. Our neighbour took us to the hospital. We stayed there all day, sitting in the waiting room and by his bedside.

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