Yorkshire mum climbs mountain for Rob Burrow Appeal after her son died of MND

A Yorkshire mum is climbing Ben Nevis to raise funds for the Rob Burrow Centre after her son died of Motor Neurone Disease. Ann Chadwick reports.

Just two years ago Jude de Vos was in a very dark place.

“It’s hard for me to say now. I was so suicidal,” Jude’s voice breaks.

The merriness of the Christmas lights ‘‘rubbed salt’’ in her emotional wound. Jude found herself leaning against a wall near her home near Holmfirth, ready to throw herself under a bus.

Jude De Vos is hiking up Ben Nevis for The RobBurrow MND Centre,

“I felt so isolated. I felt everyone’s life has gone back to normal, and I’d been through so much trauma. And nobody recognises the trauma. It left a tsunami in its wake.”

Jude’s son Jody had died of Motor Neurone Disease two years earlier but she was really struggling.

But now she is determined to turn that around and is preparing to climb the UK’s biggest mountain, Ben Nevis, to raise funds for the Rob Burrow Centre Appeal after she was moved by the rugby league stars own battle with MND.

She says Jody was born for adventure.

Jody de Vos loved to travel and have adventures before he fell victim to Motor Neurone Disease while living in Australia

Just before he came into the world, Jude, her then husband Steve, and their two young daughters, Emma and Anouk, went to live on the tiny island of Herm in the Channel Islands. Steve worked as a herdsman.

In January, due to give birth, storms hit. She managed to get a boat across to the hospital in Guernsey and Jody was born. The skipper and his wife took her in until he could get her back to Herm.

The family then lived on top of a mountain in Wales as Steve did a degree in agriculture, before a move to Ireland where the children spent the majority of their childhood.

“We lived a Swallows and Amazons life,” Jude says. “I had a hundred dairy cows to milk, we had 500 sheep, it was very much a rural farming life. “

Jude managed to spend special time travelling with her son Jody before he became too ill

When Jude and Steve’s marriage ended, Jude pursued her long-time ambition, and trained as a nurse at Nottingham University. Her daughter Anouk, a teacher and part time police woman, lives in the Isle of Man. Emma is an immunisation team lead with the NHS in Kent.

In 2009, Jody took a gap

year in Australia, fell in love with it, and in 2013 he emigrated. Jude had moved to Yorkshire to be

close to her dad, taking a job

Jody De Vos moved to Australia

as a community nurse with

Rotherham and Doncaster

NHS.

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With Jude’s father dying of cancer, Jody didn’t want to bother his mum when he started having problems with his wrist. Then he found his foot dragged.

“He finally told me he was going to see a neurologist.” Three months later, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Jody suffered MND the same disease as rugby league legend Rob Burrow

After Jude’s father died, she decided to go to Australia.

“Jody had already started having difficulty swallowing, and saying words. He arranged time off work; we went back packing together. He wanted to make memories. The memories will be with me forever and ever. If we’d have left it three or four months, it would have been too late. He declined so rapidly.”

Jody reluctantly had to leave Australia and moved back to Jude’s home near Holmfirth to be cared for by his mum; the NHS told her to take as much time off work as she needed.

“He was very isolated. He knew no-one here in Yorkshire. I didn’t know anyone either; I had my mum who was by then 92 and grieving deeply. So, it was a very hard time.” Just eight weeks after moving in with his mum and a year after his diagnosis, Jody had an emergency gastrostomy – no longer able to swallow or speak.

District nurses and care companies came and went. His lungs began to deteriorate.

But Jody kept his humour and spirit. A huge Madonna fan, he had booked tickets to see her in Berlin before his diagnosis. Despite being on a breathing machine, in a wheelchair, Jude flew with him to the concert.

Taken into a hospice, Jody was told he wouldn’t make it to Christmas. “I’ll bloody make it,” he told them. He wanted to be at home. Jude couldn’t get any carers to cover Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. She rang his friends and her daughters, telling them to come before the New Year.

Jody died on January 6. He was 38.

In 2017, the year he died, Jude and Anouk took his ashes back to Australia, where he’d planned his own beach party and funeral.

After nine months, Jude went back to work.

“I worked for another two years. But it broke my heart every day. I’d bled myself dry of caring and love. Every patient I saw, I ended up sitting in my car sobbing, so I decided to retire.”

In 2019, Jude returned to Australia on a pilgrimage to follow in her son’s footsteps. Covid meant Jude has been unable to return to his grave. She already felt lonely, and Covid deepened the isolation. But this summer, she began to walk to rebalance her health.

After hearing about the Rob Burrow Centre Appeal in September, she decided to climb Ben Nevis, to raise funds in memory of Jody.

“When I heard about the appeal, I thought it was the perfect thing to fundraise for. If only that had been there for Jody and I. We would have had support all in one place. That’s what we needed, some arms around us,” she said. “Going up Ben Nevis is scary, but I know I’ll do it even if I have to crawl.”

It’s given her direction and connection.

“I am still here and I have survived. Jody had such a passion for life. He wanted to live so much and he would have been so angry with me considering suicide; that really helped when the dark place was very, very dark. So, this is a tribute to Jody. It’s given me a new passion.”

To donate, go to: Leeds Hospitals Charity and sponsor Jude in her bid to raise £2,000 for the appeal in memory of her son Jody visit https://leedshospitalscharity.enthuse.com/pf/jude-de-vos-d181e-0ddc6-45b81For more on MND visit www.mndassociation.org

Jody with his mum Jude and his two sister Anouk and Emma