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Chris and James’s story: Braving a skydive for Dad

Brothers Chris and James Tetlow will take to the skies in memory of their dad, Paul

Chris Tetlow and his older brother James, who has Down’s syndrome, will take to the skies on Sunday 23 June to raise funds for our local hospice.

The brothers’ fundraising challenge was inspired by the care their father, Paul, received in his final weeks of life.

Following a devastating diagnosis of lung cancer, Paul was cared for at home by his wife, Michelle, with support from Hospiscare’s 24-hour advice line. As Paul’s health deteriorated, the hospice’s community nursing team began visiting their home near Exmouth. In January, Paul was transferred to Hospiscare’s specialist ward at Michelle’s request and the family were able to spend his final days together.

A close-up of an older man smiling at the camera

Chris and James’s Dad, Paul

Despite a fear of heights, Chris was determined to take on a skydive and raise vital funds for Hospiscare. He explains, “I’ve always been scared of heights, but I think it’s important to confront things head-on. Putting myself in this uncomfortable position would have given Dad a good giggle – he’d like the idea of me squirming. It also means that I’ll be as symbolically close to Dad as possible.

“My dad was an archetypal English gent. He was old school, in the good way. I went through a bit of a tricky patch in school and I remember my tutor telling me, ‘Be more like your father – an English gentleman!’

“He was calm and considered and very patient with me. As I grew up, our relationship became very strong as I became more like him. Doing this challenge, it’s an opportunity to do something that he would have been proud of.”

A man and woman outside laughing wearing sunglasses

Michelle with her husband, Paul

Chris had originally planned to take on his fundraising skydive with a friend, but after mentioning it to his mum and brother, James immediately wanted to join him.

Michelle explains, “As soon as James said he wanted to skydive too, I got on the phone to the company and asked if a person with Down’s syndrome could skydive. They said yes, so I booked him in then and there. When I called Chris to tell him, he hadn’t even booked in his own skydive! I think we forced his hand a bit… but James told him, ‘Don’t worry brother – I’ll look after you!’”

Chris continues, “James is absolutely fearless – it’s a quality I greatly admire in him. James embraces life and all of its experiences with a smile on his face. He inspires me greatly. I know on the day he’ll be holding my hand, being my emotional support!

“I’m honoured to be doing this for a charity that’s providing a critical service that impacts everybody. I wasn’t aware of Hospiscare until we needed them, and I don’t know how Mum would have made it through without them.”

James is excited to take on the skydive and wants to support his brother: “It’s exactly what friends are for. We do it together. We celebrate what we have – all the love we have.

“Hospiscare is fantastic. The nurses helped Dad. They helped Mum and Mum is my world. They need money to help people.”

A woman and man laughing with their foreheads pressed together

James with his mum, Michelle

Michelle concludes, “James looks to the stars for his dad, and he says he’ll wave all the way down.

“We were lucky to be connected up with Hospiscare and so lucky that it exists. I can’t believe that a service that the local NHS relies on so much isn’t fully funded by them, instead it relies on ordinary people. Everyone should have this kind of access and it worries me that, with lack of funding, others might not. I can’t imagine going through what we went through without their support, so if we can do our bit, like my boys jumping out of a plane, then we will!”

The Tetlow brothers have raised over £2,000 for Hospiscare in the lead-up to their skydive and hope that sharing their story encourages further donations.

To donate to Chris and James’s challenge, click here.