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Lindsey's sad fight: "I'm battling to make myself a widow"

Paul's life was cut short too soon, but if sharing his story can help other families avoid the 18 months of hell we went through, it will mean our fight was worthwhile.

Lindsay Briggs, 41, shares her tragic story:

My husband Paul and I arrived home from holiday, but I didn't feel at all refreshed.

I felt tired and queasy.

We had gone away to give ourselves a little break after our first round of IVF had ended in a heartbreaking miscarriage.

Paul and I had been together since I was 18 and he was 22. We'd married five years later, and while we knew we wanted children eventually, we weren't in a rush.

However, when we did start trying for a baby, nothing happened and we were referred for fertility treatment.

Even after the miscarriage, we weren't ready to give up.

But we wanted a break before we tried IVF again.

Only now, I had a funny feeling we might not need a second round of treatment.

I took a pregnancy test as soon as possible.

"Paul, I'm pregnant," I said.

"You can't be," he replied.

Neither of us could believe it, so we booked a private scan.

"You're definitely pregnant," the sonographer said.

We were so surprised and happy, we burst out laughing.

And when our beautiful daughter Ella arrived months later, the look of joy on Paul's face melted my heart.

Over the following years, we delighted in watching her grow. Paul was an active, hands-on dad. He loved taking Ella swimming or to the park.

"And when our beautiful daughter Ella arrived months later, the look of joy on Paul's face melted my heart." *Pictures exclusive to Take 5*
"And when our beautiful daughter Ella arrived months later, the look of joy on Paul's face melted my heart." Pictures exclusive to Take 5

We both worked hard, me as a PA and Paul as a police officer, so we made the most of our family time. We'd go on day trips and tropical holidays overseas.

Ella also loved feeding the ducks on the pond near our house. One evening, after doing that, we had dinner and then it was time for Paul to leave for his night shift.

"See you both tomorrow," he said, kissing Ella and me before heading off on his motorbike.

An hour later, I'd just settled down on the sofa with Ella, now four, when the doorbell rang.

Through the frosted glass, I could see the uniforms and high-visibility vests of two police officers, and panicked.

Opening the door, I said, "It's Paul, isn't it?"

"There's been an accident," one said. "You need to get to hospital."

I scooped Ella up and we got into the back of the police car.

On the way, I called Paul's mother Jan, who met us there.

His brothers came, too, and one took Ella back to their house.

A doctor told us Paul had suffered extensive injuries, including a broken arm, leg, collar bone, pelvis, spine and ribs.

His lung and liver were damaged, too.

"Over the following years, we delighted in watching her grow. Paul was an active, hands-on dad. He loved taking Ella swimming or to the park." *Pictures exclusive to Take 5*
"Over the following years, we delighted in watching her grow. Paul was an active, hands-on dad. He loved taking Ella swimming or to the park." Pictures exclusive to Take 5

But it was the head injury that was the most worrying.

"Oh, Paul," I wept when I saw him lying there.

They had done their best to bandage him up, but he was an absolute mess.

"The next 24 to 48 hours are critical," doctors warned, as he was taken to intensive care.

Later, Paul's colleagues told us a car being driven on the wrong side of the road had just ploughed into him.

The driver was a young woman and she had been arrested and charged with causing injury by dangerous driving.

But I couldn't think about that now – I had to focus on poor Paul.

I sat by his side, willing him to pull through.

"Ella and I need you," I kept telling him.

But days turned into weeks, then months, with Paul showing little sign of improvement.

At night, I would stay up late researching ways of waking coma patients.

I tried everything – talking to him, playing his favourite music, brushing different fabrics on his skin, reading to him.

In time, Paul opened his eyes and began breathing on his own.

But while I hoped this was the start of him coming back to us, the brain damage he'd suffered was too severe. He wasn't responding in any other way.

This fit, active, confident man, who had been a serving soldier before joining the police, was now incapable of doing anything for himself.

He was being fed through a tube and needed people to wash and dress him, and brush his teeth.

It was heartbreaking to see him like that, but worst of all was knowing how much he'd hate to be like this.

We'd talked about it because of things he'd seen as a police officer, and experiences we'd had of seeing close family suffering long-term chronic illnesses.'He wouldn't want to live like this,' I told Jan.

She agreed, so I went to speak to his doctors about withdrawing the treatment.

But they explained that because we had never put his wishes in writing, in what's called an Advance Care Directive, they had a duty to keep him alive.

I'd thought that, as his wife, I could speak for him. But I'd been wrong.

After getting some advice, I found Paul an independent mental capacity advocate.

She said the only way to make his voice heard would be to challenge the medical decision through the courts.

We found ourselves a solicitor, who began building a case.

In the meantime, Chelsea Rowe, 27, appeared at court and was jailed for a year after admitting causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Her barrister told the court she was sorry. But in the year since the accident, she hadn't made any attempt to apologise to Paul or us for what she'd done.

Six months on, we asked a judge for the right to end Paul's life.

His doctors argued there was potential for him to emerge from the minimally conscious state he'd been in since the accident 18 months earlier.

But I told the judge, 'The active, energetic man I married 15 years ago would never have wanted to be kept alive this way.'

Jan and his brothers spoke in court, too.

Paul in hospital *Pictures exclusive to Take 5*
Paul in hospital Pictures exclusive to Take 5

Our public fight was in all the newspapers, and while we received lots of support, there were also people who didn't agree with what we were doing.

It hurt, but I told myself they were strangers who didn't know me or Paul.

When the judge ruled that Paul's treatment should be stopped, it was bittersweet.

I wanted a miracle more than anyone else. I didn't want to be a widow or for our daughter to lose her doting dad.

But I knew it was what Paul would have wanted and I didn't want him to suffer any more.

Soon after, he was moved to a hospice.

With all the machinery stripped away and just a drip keeping him sedated and pain-free, Paul looked peaceful for the first time since the accident.

"You're in the hospice now," I told him. "You're going to get out of this horrible situation and be at peace."

I visited every day, holding his hand and talking about the 20 happy years we'd spent together – how we'd met, our first kiss, his proposal in Paris, our wedding and our joy when Ella was born.

When Paul was in the hospital, I'd stopped taking Ella because it was too upsetting for her. But at the hospice, she saw her daddy one last time.

A few days later, a nurse called to say Paul had died.

"I'm determined to use our experience to make a difference in other people's lives." *Pictures exclusive to Take 5*
"I'm determined to use our experience to make a difference in other people's lives." Pictures exclusive to Take 5

When I went in to see him, they had put a picture Ella had painted on his pillow and I broke down in floods of tears.

Although I'd been expecting it for a while, it felt like I'd lost him all over again.

Back at home, I sat Ella down and gently told her, "Daddy's gone to heaven."

She just nodded and then went off to play.

Ella had lost her fun-loving, adoring daddy the day of the terrible accident.

We buried Paul two weeks later. He had a full police escort and the chapel was packed with friends, family and colleagues.

It was a testament to how well-loved Paul was.

Now, more than a year on, I miss Paul desperately. He was my soulmate and I thought we'd be together forever. What upsets me most is that Ella has to grow up without him.

But I'm determined to use our experience to make a difference in other people's lives.

Story continues after video...

I volunteer for a charity called Widowed and Young, helping others who have lost their partners too soon.

I'm also an official ambassador for the charity Compassion in Dying.

Through them, I hope to encourage couples to write Advance Care Directives, so if the worst happens they won't have to fight through the courts like I did.

I've written one myself to protect Ella.

Paul's life was cut short too soon, but if sharing his story can help other families avoid the 18 months of hell we went through, it will mean our fight was worthwhile.

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