A grieving fiancee has paid a heartfelt tribute to her partner after he tragically died in her arms on the plane home from the trip of a lifetime - one day after they got engaged.
Martyn Foulds and Sally Mondryk were on a dream holiday to the West Coast of America when Martyn fell seriously ill in Los Angeles.
Just 24 hours earlier, Sally proposed to Martyn, a senior claims manager for Lloyds Banking Group in Halifax, at the Grand Canyon
The couple were forced to cut their trip short and fly back to the UK, but in a devastating turn of events, Martyn lost his battle for life while travelling home.
The much-loved 55-year-old, described as having an “infectious personality”, faced health troubles for some months before his death. It later transpired he had an advanced tumour on his bowel.
Speaking from their home in Holywell Green, Sally, 48, said: “He hadn’t been very well since June. He went to the doctor with recurrent urine infections and had several courses of antibiotics.
“Then he ended up quite poorly with a fever and was admitted to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in July.
“They thought he had sepsis. At that point, CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds and a colonoscopy were organised and it was found he had something called a fistula, which means that a hole had developed between his bowel and his bladder.
“He was due for an operation and we were just waiting for a date, but they said it was OK for him to go on holiday, which had been booked since last year.
“It was a holiday of a lifetime and we had really been looking forward to it.”
The pair flew out on October 15 to take in the sights of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, but just days in Martyn, who was deputy president of the Insurance Institute of Halifax and a senior manager at the bank’s Copley and Newport offices, took a turn for the worse.
“He was OK for the first couple of days, just the general niggling pains he lived with all the time and then he started being sick,” Sally said.
“He had lost his appetite and hadn’t really been eating, so the fact he was being sick was a bit unusual.
“It was getting worse and we woke up on the Thursday morning and he said ‘I think we might need to try and get a flight home, I really don’t feel well’.”
The couple booked a flight back to Gatwick, but when they arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, Martyn collapsed at the check-in desk before their 11-hour flight home.
Sally said: “It was horrific, but he wanted to get home at that point so I just followed his wishes. My instinct was to get an ambulance, but he kept saying he could sleep on the plane and he would get help when he got home.
“He just went downhill on the plane. About four hours in, he was complaining of back pain and he wasn’t comfortable. He was struggling to breathe properly by that point.”
A call-out for medics was issued on the flight and two doctors and two nurses came forward to help, but his condition continued to worsen and he collapsed again.
“At that point, he actually said ‘I think I’m dying’. It was horrific,” Sally said.
“I got him back to his seat and about another hour in he started breathing funny. Everybody was looking at him. That was the worst thing - 300 people were watching him die.
“I had his head in my hands - he kept trying to move me and I wouldn’t. I was making him look at me, his eyes kept drifting off and I kept asking him if he was alright. He’d come back and say he was fine and then, he just died.
“Two doctors hoisted him out of the chair and got him to the back of the plane as fast as they could.”
The captain turned the plane around and headed to the nearest airport, which was just over an hour away in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Canada.
Medics performed CPR on Martyn until the plane landed, at which point he was pronounced dead.
“I felt numb. It was disbelief and almost as if I was watching someone else,” said Sally.
To add to her devastating ordeal, Sally had to leave Martyn in Canada while a post-mortem was carried out.
It found that Martyn had been living with an advanced 15cm tumour on his bowel, which hadn’t been picked up by previous scans at the hospital.
His bowel had ruptured because of the tumour and he also had metastasis of the liver.
Now Sally and her family are waiting for Martyn’s body to be flown back to the UK so they can make funeral arrangements.
While they aren’t able to organise anything at the moment, they are determined to give him a “big party”.
Paying an emotional tribute to music, comedy and car enthusiast Martyn, Sally said: “He was a consummate professional and very work driven. He very much worked for the customer.
“He had the most booming laugh and everybody has said they will miss that. On one of our first dates we went to a comedy club and he made me sit on the front row.
“He started laughing and I was sinking into my shoulders and I’d give anything to hear that laugh now.
“He was very caring and very honest. He’d help everybody else, before he helped himself. He cared about everyone else more than himself, hence why he probably didn’t go to the doctor sooner.
“He was just a lovely person and very well thought of.
“I have some fantastic memories of the holiday, obviously some very sad ones too, but he got to show me what he wanted to show me.
“We had a brilliant future planned and things had just got to where we needed them to be.”
Tributes have poured in from the business world following Martyn’s tragic death.
He was supremely qualified in the insurance field, which he had worked in all his life, and in May, had become a fellow of the prestigious Chartered Institute of Insurance.
Martyn had worked for Lloyds Banking Group since 2003 and colleagues said he will be greatly missed.
Kelly Young, Martyn’s colleague and friend at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Martyn was a highly valued, gifted and key member of our business and a treasured friend to many of his colleagues.
“We will all miss his support and infectious personality and our thoughts are with his family.”
Martyn was also deputy president and a former president of the Insurance Institute of Halifax.
A statement issued by the institute said: “Martyn was an extremely active member of the local institute and very passionate in ensuring our members received opportunities to learn and develop their knowledge.
“Martyn had a big personality, was very professional in his career, but remained considerate kind and humble to all those who knew him. He will be missed greatly by his council friends.”
He is survived by his children Luke and Imogen, Sally’s children Jake, Max, Harry and Daisy, his brother Tim and mother May.