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Friday, 03 July 2015

Family tribute to "devoted" Walney mum

A FAMILY has paid tribute to a “kind-hearted and devoted” mum of two young children who died suddenly after a brain haemorrhage.

Teaching assistant Helen Hipkiss, 39, was working at Brisbane Park Infant School last Wednesday lunchtime when she collapsed.

Paramedics were called and her husband, Barrow Borough Council planning manager Jason, raced to the school.

Despite the best efforts of the medical team at Furness General Hospital over the next 24 hours, doctors informed Mr Hipkiss that his wife was not responding and the decision was taken to turn off the machines. In line with her wishes, some of her organs were removed and have been used to save a number of lives.

Mr Hipkiss, who has been supported by his two young children, nine-year-old Adam and Yasmin, seven, and his extended family, said his wife had been a devoted, conscientious and kind-hearted woman.

He said: “I was at work and got a phone call to say Helen had collapsed. She had the car at school so I ran up Duke Street and went to the hospital in the ambulance with her.

“I stopped with Helen on Wednesday night and on Thursday afternoon the consultants carried out formal tests which confirmed she was brain dead.

“Helen was kept on life support in order for the organ donations to take place on Friday. It’s what she would have wanted.”

The couple and their two children, of Strathaird Avenue, Walney, had been due to travel to Belgium on Monday for a week’s holiday.

Mr Hipkiss said his wife, who was known across Barrow and Ulverston from playing hockey with Vickers and Glaxo, had completed the Manchester 10k run last year and had hoped to take on the London Marathon.

He added: “That’s what’s so shocking about all of this, she’s never had anything wrong with her. She never smoked, didn’t drink a lot... she really looked after herself.”

Mr Hipkiss, 50, was keen to publicly thank the hospital staff for their efforts in trying to save his wife.

He said: “From the two paramedics all the way through to accident and emergency and the intensive care unit, they were all fantastic. They were brilliant with me and I am so grateful for all their help and support.”

The family said they had been able to find some comfort in knowing “some good has come out of what happened to Helen” through the organ donation.

Mr Hipkiss, who said his wife was happiest when with her children, said: “She’d carried a donor card since Adam was born, we’d talked about it quite a lot and I countersigned the card.

“When it became clear she wasn’t going to come back, the doctors said they wanted to talk to me about something and I knew what it would be so I told them ‘Helen carried a donor card’.

“I talked to the rest of the family about it and we were all in agreement that something good could come out of what has happened to Helen. That was the kind of person she was – thoughtful, selfless and always thinking of others.”

Mr and Mrs Hipkiss, who met at the town hall where they both worked, married in 1998 at St Mary’s Church on Walney.

The church is set to be packed once more at 10.45am on Tuesday when friends, family and colleagues gather to say goodbye to Helen.

Helen’s parents, Dorothy and Harry Wrathall, said they have been touched by the number of cards and phone calls from friends, family and colleagues.

Mrs Wrathall, 80, of Hill Road, Barrow, said: “On Thursday the doctors said they would turn off the machines because there was nothing more that could be done. In my heart I’d known on the Wednesday she had gone. So we went up and sat with Helen and said our goodbyes.

“They took her to theatre for the organ donation, then Jason came back and he didn’t speak.

“We were all in shock that she had gone.... you don’t expect to see your children go before you.”

Mrs Hipkiss had worked at the social services offices in Abbey Road before becoming a teaching assistant to work with children with special needs, first at Ramsden Infant and Nursery School and later at Brisbane Park Infant School, both Barrow.

Headteacher at Brisbane Park, Pat Burton, said: “She loved her job and everyone loved her.

“She had a lovely personality and she was a really bubbly person and very good at her job. She got on with everybody and was very well-respected.

“The whole school community is devastated.”

l The funeral of Helen Hipkiss will take place at 10.45am on Tuesday at St Mary’s Church on Walney.

Mr Hipkiss asked for family flowers only but said any donations would be split between A Chance For Life, a regional support group for people who have suffered from brain trauma, and the Brain Research Trust.

Have your say

Treasured memories of a wonderful caring and kind childhood friend who will be so sadly missed. Rest Easy Helen xx My thoughts and prayers are with the family at this very sad time.

Posted by rebeccanewman on 8 June 2012 at 13:34

I never met you however my son was in the class you were working in at Brisbane Park and he keeps saying how much of a nice teacher and person you were. You also helped teach my daughter to read last year and for these reasons I thank you for helping my children and my thoughts are with your family.

Posted by R Woodburn on 8 June 2012 at 13:23

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