Sam Doehren-Tierney is holding a fundraising football match at Brighton’s Amex stadium to raise money for Martlets. The match is in memory of his mum Kate who was cared for on Martlets’ inpatient unit in 2017. Sam and his wife Eloise had their wedding reception at Martlets so that Kate could attend. They have since got Martlets-themed tattoos to show their appreciation for the care she received.
“My mum Kate spent several days on Martlets’ inpatient unit in November 2017. She always talked about cancer as something she was living with, not dying from. And Martlets helped her live her life to the full even in her last few days.
At the time me and my girlfriend Eloise had got engaged, but our plans for marriage were way off. Getting engaged was just a signal that we would get married at some point. We had no plans for when it would happen or what it would involve. But getting the news that Mum only had a short time left to live put things in perspective. It made us realise that we wanted her to share that joy with us. We suddenly went from thinking ‘we’ll get married at some point’ to ‘how quickly can we get married?’.
That conversation happened on a Friday and the following Friday we were saying our vows at our wedding. Somehow it all came together in just one week. I got organised and I was willing to ask all sorts of people for help to make it happen!
‘We had our wedding reception at Martlets so Mum could be there.’
We got married at Brighton Town Hall. They have a video streaming service, so we were able to set up streaming back to Martlets. It meant Mum could watch our wedding on a laptop in her room at the Hospice. At the Town Hall there were 12 of us, but back at Martlets there were around 30 people watching online. Then we drove over to Martlets and had our reception there. We had all the food laid out in their family room. And that’s where we did the speeches and where the cake was cut.
Our employers and friends were appreciative of the scenario and gave us the support we needed to make it happen. And, of course, Martlets were brilliant. The staff just went out of their way to make it a great day. They still managed to look after Mum’s care needs and those of other patients whilst also helping us celebrate. Caring for people who are dying, whilst also helping them live life to the full, is at the centre of what Martlets is all about.
My two best men were who I would’ve chosen whenever I’d got married; they just had to write their speeches in less time than they might’ve had if we’d planned it further ahead! Eloise is from Coventry, so her family had to come down at short notice; it was all very chaotic. She was never going to go for a traditional wedding dress and managed to find something great at short notice. Incredibly, the whole wedding cost less than £1,000. I put it all on my credit card and it had a £1,000 limit so I remember the amount.
‘Mum was on top form that day.’
I have photos of us with Mum which are great memories to have. It was such a nice moment because Mum was on top form that day. She was breathless and on oxygen, but the event seemed to revitalise her. She loved talking to Eloise about plans for the wedding during the week leading up to it. And she had such a good time on the day. A lot of Mum’s friends came down and it was lovely for them to see her on good form. It meant they could take away positive memories of her having a happy time. And Mum was able to say her goodbyes to them.
The night of the wedding, on the Friday, Mum went downhill very quickly and died on the following Monday. I think perhaps it was looking forward to the wedding that had kept her going. That year was so tough for us as my Nan died just a week after my mum.
‘Eloise and I got Martlets tattoos in memory of Mum and our wedding.’
Martlets made a difficult time so much easier to cope with. They were genuinely incredible throughout all of it. I don’t think I could work on the ward at Martlets; it takes a special strength to work in a hospice. I just have so much respect for the work they do.
Our experience inspired our own little Martlets traditions. When we ordered our Christmas supermarket shopping that December after Mum died, we ordered a small chocolate yule log. To our surprise, two big ones arrived instead of one small one! So, we took one down to Martlets for the staff. That’s become a Christmas tradition for us now, to drop a yule log into the Hospice.
On our wedding anniversary each year we invite friends and family down for a get together. A lot of people couldn’t attend the wedding at such short notice so it’s good to connect. Although we couldn’t do it of course curing COVID last year. We always order a load of pizzas for it and take one into Martlets for the staff.
After Mum died, we did some fundraising and raised around £3,000 for Martlets; it’s something we want to do more of. Both me and my wife have Martlets tattoos now as well! I didn’t have any tattoos before that, but I’d been thinking of getting one. The thing is with a tattoo, the first one needs to be a good one. You can have a dodgy second one, but I reckon your first tattoo needs to mean something. It seemed like the ideal tat for us to get together. I’ve got the blue bird that’s in the Martlets logo on my upper arm; Eloise has all the birds on the logo as part of hers. I think it demonstrates just how grateful we were to Martlets during that time.
‘Please support my in-memory football match at the Amex.’
I inherited some money after Mum died and decided I’d do something fun for my brother’s 30th birthday. Ben is a massive fan of Brighton and Hove Albion; he’s been going to see them play since he was 12 years old. He has learning difficulties and is part of their disabled team. So, I decided to buy him an event package. It’s an opportunity to play on the pitch at the Amex stadium.
Going to see the Seagulls play was how Ben learned to be independent. He’d been going with me since he was young. When I went off to university Mum was able to send him to a match on his own; so he had some freedom. Brighton is such a friendly club with a good reputation so Mum knew he would be safe. And he knew how to get there and back easily on the bus. He’s been a season ticket holder for around 17 years now.
The match was supposed to happen last year, but then COVID changed everything, and we had to postpone. Now we’ve booked a 2pm kick off on Sunday 30 May. I don’t want to charge players the £200 it would usually cost to take part in one of these events; some of them are my brother’s friends and on low incomes and it means so much to him doing this. So, I’m using a bit of Mum’s money to cover it. Then I thought why not make it a match in memory of Mum and the care Martlets gave her.
‘Visit my Just Giving page to donate to Martlets.’
If you are able to make a donation, no matter how small, that would be great. My employer Legal & General is also matching any donations up to £5,000 which is brilliant.
We have a full team now ready to play, including two players from Martlets: Bobby is Martlets’ director of finance, and Stephen has just started working there as a senior social worker. I think it will be the most amateur match that has ever been played on the turf! It should be a lot of fun though.”
You can make a donation by visiting Sam’s Just Giving page.