Hong Kong community raises HK$150,000 for cancer-stricken British expat David Coates to return home
61-year-old bids fond farewell to his adopted city of 21 years, as his struggling family can now reunite with relatives in their native Middlesbrough
A terminally ill British expat in Hong Kong had his final wish granted last week after neighbours and Post readers raised money to send him on a one-way trip home to reunite with his mother.
Cancer patient David Coates, 61, who has carried all manner of memorabilia from his 21 years in the city back to Middlesbrough in Britain, expressed gratitude to donors. “Thank you, everyone in Hong Kong,” wife Annmarie said on his behalf.
With more than HK$150,000 (US$19,100) raised for the struggling family, Coates flew home with his wife and their 14-year-old daughter.
Coates was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer in March, only a few years after his wife had recovered from breast cancer. He was told he had another six months to live if chemotherapy was successful.
The family faced a dire financial situation after Coates’ headhunting business went downhill, coupled with the high costs of the couple’s medical treatments. Their 14-year-old daughter’s schooling was disrupted and they have been selling furniture to make ends meet.
With the donation, the family flew back to Britain last Monday, with Coates under the care of a certified nurse. He was transferred to James Cook University Hospital and is expected to receive chemotherapy.
Annmarie said being able to return home provided a boost to her husband, but his condition required close monitoring.
“As soon as he knew we were going home, he really perked up,” she said. “I was really struggling to hear him. He was taken off the oxygen and saline but we had them on the plane, just in case we needed it.”
Annmarie said the donation meant a lot to the family. “It helped immensely. Initially I was just thinking about the flight, but then [we had to pay for other aspects] such as the oxygen supply and an ambulance to take us from Manchester to Middlesbrough. There were just so many add-ons.”
“I’m just so grateful to everybody in Hong Kong, and the community that came together to help us,” she added.
The family is now busy unpacking. The process of moving was difficult for Coates, an avid collector, according to his wife, as he could not bear to part with two decades of items that represented their life together in Hong Kong – from old photographs to the family Bible.
“We are throwing away 21 years of our lives, which is very, very hard,” Annmarie said.
The bright side of this, according to her, is that her husband is now reunited with his relatives and 89-year-old mother, and this would give him the strength to cope with the illness.
“He will be a lot happier and get the help he really needs,” she said.