Human Interest

Husband of UK’s first married couple with Down syndrome dies from COVID-19

Down syndrome, COVID

UPDATE, 1/4/21: The Facebook page dedicated to the couple announced that Tommy Pilling passed away. He was 62 years old. The post featured tributes from Maryanne Pilling’s sister, Lindi Newman, and her mother, Linda Newman, who have served as the couple’s caretakers for the last 30 years.

“My darling Tommy will stay in my heart forever. I am so thankful mum unofficially adopted him 30 years ago and made him a part of our family,” Lindi wrote, adding,

I will cherish the thousands of memories I have with him – the days out, the holidays, the cinema trips, zoo visits, playing golf and bowling. He always said “thank you for taking me out today.”

I will smile whenever I think of the daily compliments he gave me “I like your hair today I do” or “you look nice today, I like your top” even if I looked horrendous. How he would buy me flowers as a surprise and when I asked why he said it was because he loved me, he told me every single day he loved me.

We are in shock and are heartbroken this has happened after I tried everything to keep him safe while he shielded for 10 long months. It’s so cruel that he caught covid while in hospital, he had no choice but to go in for treatment.

Thank you for showing me what unconditional love was, I will remember your beautiful ways forever, your pure heart, your love of music, Elvis, your dancing. Your positive attitude and how you appreciated the small things.

Thank you for making Maryanne so happy and for being the best uncle my children could ever ask for.

Thank you for being you and making the world a better place, touching the lives of millions just by being you.

Linda wrote that his death has left a hole that will never be filled, as she saw him as a son, and not just her son-in-law. “I have never regretted a single moment of the 30 years he was in my life and care, be brought so much joy just by being him,” she said. “I will always be thankful for the laughter and fun he brought to our lives. Fly high Tommy we will love you forever.”

Maryanne is understandably heartbroken and grieving the loss of her husband. In an interview with The Sun, Lindi said Maryanne has known Tommy for almost her entire life, and they’d never spent more than a few hours apart until now.

“She is absolutely devastated and in shock,” she said. “One minute, she is hysterical and the next she is fine, then she cries again. It is so hard for all of us.”

12/31/20:Earlier this year, Tommy and Maryanne Pilling celebrated their 25th anniversary. Both Tommy and Maryanne have Down syndrome, and the couple were the first in Britain to get married, which had previously been illegal. Sadly, Tommy recently caught COVID-19, and doctors say they don’t expect him to survive.

According to the Western Journal, Tommy lost his parents at a young age, and upon meeting Maryanne, her family became his new family, too. After 18 months of dating, Tommy proposed, and Maryanne immediately said yes. “My wedding was the best day of my life,” Maryanne said. “I was shocked when Tommy proposed but I didn’t have to think twice about saying yes. Tommy and I never argue. I love my husband very much. He is my best friend.”

In recent years, Tommy tragically developed dementia, forcing the couple to separate. Maryanne’s sister, Lindi Newman, said Tommy sometimes forgets who Maryanne is, which is heartbreaking for her. “He’s forgotten who Maryanne is a handful of times,” she said, according to The Sun. “It always happens really late at night. He pushes her away and says, ‘I don’t know who you are’ and ‘I don’t love you.’ Maryanne takes that to heart and is absolutely crushed and hysterical.”

Newman asked for people to send Christmas cards to cheer them up, and the response was overwhelming, with over 100 cards coming each day since November. That effort is especially needed now, as Tommy has been in the hospital, fighting COVID-19.

On a Facebook page earlier this month, Newman announced that Tommy had fallen and had to be taken to the hospital. He was released to go home, but his health continued to fail, so he was taken back to the hospital, which was understandably difficult on Maryanne. “I have to be honest, she is absolutely lost,” Newman wrote. “She is trying so hard to put on a brave face but she keeps breaking down in tears. Maryanne and Tom have only spent 24 hours apart in 30 years. She is distraught and it isn’t getting any easier but she is staying with our mum so is distracted and keeping busy but it is still not helping.”

The cards helped keep Maryanne’s mind off Tommy’s situation, which has unfortunately taken a heartbreaking turn. Tommy caught COVID-19 while in the hospital, from which he developed COVID pneumonia. Doctors do not expect him to survive.

“Our beautiful Tommy has caught covid while he was in hospital which has then lead to covid pneumonia. The doctors don’t think he can recover from this,” Newman wrote on Facebook. “We are beside ourselves with worry, heartbreak and shock. Maryanne understands 95% of the situation and is currently living with our mum so she has full support. Please keep him in your thoughts, heart and prayers. We are lost for words and cannot process what is happening; as a family we are broken.”

People around the world have sent prayers and well-wishes for the couple as Tommy fights for his life. The love the two of them share for each other has touched the hearts of thousands across the globe, and proves that Down syndrome does not diminish one’s capacity for love, or their ability to lead a fulfilling, enriched life.

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