A grieving family have paid tribute to a 30-year-old mum of three who died the night before her wedding day.
Battling a terminal illness, Michelle Massey had her wedding dress ready to marry her partner of 13 years, Paul Thompson, from her hospital bed at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
But the idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, with which she had battled with for five years, claimed the mum’s life the night before the couple planned to wed in front of close friends and family.
Now, to mark what would have been her 31st birthday, her friends and family took part in a sponsored walk along Roker seafront, a spot where she loved to take children Jessica, five, Alisha, eight and Lewis, 11.
In a further blow, the children have all been tested for the condition - which causes a build-up of scar tissue on the lungs which makes breathing increasingly difficult - in case it was hereditary in Michelle’s case and the family are awaiting the results.
Husband Paul says, despite her struggle with her condition which made her require permanent oxygen therapy in her final months, the caring mum always put others first.
“She was a brilliant mam,” said Paul, 34, who lived in Seaham with Michelle. “She was a little tough nut and if it affected her, she didn’t show it. She always put the kids first.”
Speaking about their planned wedding day due to take place in April, he said: “I had proposed to her about nine years ago but we never got round to organising it. When she was poorly we decided to go ahead with it and the Macmillan Nurses helped us plan it, they were brilliant.
“But sadly she died the night before, we were all with her.”
The family had hoped Michelle may be able to have a lung transplant which would have given her a chance at life, but a fungal infection in her lungs caused by the aspergillus fungus meant doctors ruled out the possibility of an operation.
Paul said: “She first became ill about five years ago and had a recurring chest infection for about a year. She kept going to the walk in centre and they would give her antibiotics but it wouldn’t clear.
“It was only when she went to hospital and they carried out chest X-rays that they saw all the scarring on her lungs.”
On Sunday, Michelle’s birthday, Jessica and Alisha, who attend Hetton Lyons Primary School, and Hetton Comprehensive pupil Lewis were joined by friends and relatives including dad Paul, and their grandmothers Iris Massey and Iris Thompson, to walk from Sue’s Cafe in Roker, along the seafront and through the park.
The sponsored walk raised funds for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust and the children released balloons with messages to their mum.
Michelle’s mum Iris Massey said: “She loved to bring the kids here and would take them to the illuminations. It’s a special place for the family. It’s been very hard for the children, she was a great mam, and they miss her terribly.
“Now we hope to raise awareness of the condition.”