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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Canterbury father-of-three Rob Watson killed by 'time bomb' inside his head after suffering brain aneurysm while decorating bedroom

28 February 2014
by Lowri Stafford

A DIY father-of-three suddenly collapsed while decorating his family home - and died just 26 hours later.

Rob Watson, 41, was halfway through wallpapering his Canterbury bedroom when an aneurysm burst in his brain.

He started vomiting and was helped downstairs and into the garden by his fiancee Sharon O'Reilly, where he collapsed in front of their 13-year-old son Tommy.

The death of Rob Watson came as a 'huge shock' to his family

The death of Rob Watson came as a 'huge shock' to his family

An air ambulance landed in nearby Kingsmead Field and medics worked for an hour, with the help of a neighbour, to try to save Mr Watson.

They were initially successful and he was airlifted to the specialist brain injury unit at the King’s College Hospital in London, where he underwent emergency surgery.

Doctors found two aneurysms, one of which had burst, as they worked for four hours.

He was put on a life support machine and the following day Miss O'Reilly, 42, was given the devastating news her partner of more than 10 years would not recover.

His life support machine was turned off at 2.30pm, and he died with his partner by his side.

Rob Watson, who died after a brain aneurysm, with Tyler, Courtney and Tommy

Rob Watson, who died after a brain aneurysm, with Tyler, Courtney and Tommy

Miss O'Reilly said: "I knew it was serious when I found him. When the air ambulance was called, it was just awful.

"At the hospital, I stayed with him all night and just prayed he would open his eyes.

"It was a huge, huge shock. It has been really traumatic for the children because it was so sudden.

"It all happened so quickly, which is what is so heartbreaking. It's been a real shock..." - Sharon O'Reilly

"It all happened so quickly, which is what is so heartbreaking. It's been a real shock, and the children aren't coping well at all.

"I don't want any other children to have to go through this. The image of the paramedics working on their father will stay with them forever. It's heart-wrenching."

Mr Watson, who was also father to daughter Courtney, nine, and seven-year-old son Tyler worked as a concrete finisher and had suffered from occasional headaches before his death last Monday, February 17.

He had made an appointment with his GP for a week later on March 3, but Miss O'Reilly said he was fit and healthy and there was no indication he was unwell.

The air ambulance landed in Kingsmead Field

The air ambulance landed in Kingsmead Field

Miss O'Reilly and her friend Clare Bishop are now hoping to raise awareness of the symptoms of brain aneurysms to prevent other families from suffering the same devastation.

She said: "He had headaches, but he didn't really complain. And it was hard getting him to go to the doctor.

"Anyone could be walking around with an aneurysm without knowing. If people feel funny, they should look up their symptoms and get checked."

Miss Bishop added: "On the Sunday morning, he was absolutely fine. He made himself egg on toast and got on with the decorating. But he got so poorly so quickly.

"We've all learned massive lessons from this. He just put his headaches to one side. He was a healthy, 41-year-old man so he wasn't worried.

"If one person can learn something from Rob's death, it won't have been in vain."

Rob Watson's family said he seemed fit and healthy

Rob Watson's family said he seemed fit and healthy

Mr Watson was originally from Leeds and met Miss O'Reilly while working as a concrete finisher at the Pfizer site in Sandwich.

They fell in love and he moved to Canterbury so they could be together.

Paying tribute to her partner, Miss O'Reilly said: "He was a bit of a character, but he had a heart of gold, and he was a really good dad who doted on his children.

"He taught them all to fish and would even take all the local kids fishing. He'd bend over backwards to help anyone. I'll miss everything about him."


What is a brain aneurysm?

Brain aneurysms can affect as many as one in 20 people, but many pass undetected with no symptoms.

Ruptured aneurysms are quite rare - only affecting around one in 12,500 in England.

An aneurysm is a bulge caused by a weakness in a blood vessel wall, usually where it branches.

As blood passes through the weakened vessel, the pressure causes a small area to bulge like a balloon.

Aneurysms can develop anywhere in the body, but the two most common places are in the heart and the brain.

A burst brain aneurysm causes a bleed called a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which can lead to agonising headache, a stiff neck, sickness and vomiting, and pain when looking at light.

About three in five are fatal within two weeks and half of those who survive are left with severe brain damage.


Mr Watson's funeral, which has been organised by his children, will take place at Barham Crematorium at midday on Friday, March 7.

Everyone who knew him is welcome, but only family flowers are requested.

Miss O'Reilly added: "If anyone wants to, we're asking for donations to the Kent Air Ambulance. Without it, Rob wouldn't have had a fighting chance."


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