A father and son who had been separated for four decades had a happy but heartbreaking reunion in hospital.
Martyn White, 44, of Santos Wharf, Eastbourne, said he lost contact with his father Barry Ryan after his parents separated when he was a child.
However, his sister managed to track him down, and he finally got to see him at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, just weeks before he died.
Martyn, a company director, said: “He was so unwell which was upsetting to see, but he was really happy to see me, he also met my wife and his grandson too, who was six-months-old at the time. He seemed quite overwhelmed to see his grandson and said ‘he’s the best’.
“Just being able to see him was amazing – he looked nothing like the photos I had of him.”
Barry died just weeks later on October 22, and an inquest this week recorded a conclusion of natural causes.
The inquest at Crawley Coroner’s Court on Tuesday (February 12), heard how Barry, a retired engineer, had lived at Jasmine Court in Patchdean, Brighton.
Martyn said he could not believe that they had been living just 25 minutes away from eachother.
The inquest heard concerns were raised over Barry’s mental health because he was refusing care and support. He was admitted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton with a chesty cough.
He was transferred to The Harold Kidd Unit on the outskirts of Chichester, a psychiatric inpatient unit caring for older people with mental health problems in the West Sussex area. Here, he was reviewed by a doctor, who discovered his oxygen saturation level had dropped.
Barry was detained under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act and was transferred to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester. He was given antibiotics for a chest infection, but he died on the ward, the inquest heard.
Martyn got to see his father a few more times before he died at the age of 73. He said he had lengthy conversations with him and having the opportunity to tell him that he loved him was ‘fantastic’.
He added: “He seemed to be a really honest and genuine person. He spoke freely about the past and things that he wasn’t proud of. He wasn’t negative about anything or anyone and had no grudges. He was crying and the first thing he said to me was ‘are you my boy’.
“I am so pleased I was able to see him and have my own opinion.”
Martyn said his father ‘did not appear to have had much luck in his life’, but he was glad he was no longer suffering.
He said he spent a period of his life homeless in Brighton, but ‘previously had some really interesting jobs’.
A post-mortem examination found the cause of death to be bronchopneumonia, ischaemic heart disease and myocardial insufficiency.