Express & Star

Tributes to young man who 'lived life to the full' despite struggle with debilitating condition

A business graduate praised for his fighting spirit and positive outlook has died aged 31 following a lifetime’s struggle against a debilitating illness.

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Jack Carey

Jack Carey, of Wordsley, has been hailed as “an inspiration” by his proud parents, partner and friends.

They say Jack, an avid football fan and talented musician, was determined to live life to the full despite having to spend an “outrageous” amount of time in hospital.

His parents, Martin and Sue Carey, and his partner of 12 years, Becky Shaw, now hope Jack’s determination to overcome hurdles will encourage other cystic fibrosis sufferers to follow their dreams.

They also hope to raise awareness of the condition and to highlight genetic testing which could help wipe out the disease.

A funeral service planned as a celebration of Jack’s life will be held at Lifecentral Church, Little Cornbow, Halesowen, this Friday, March 1 at 2pm.

Jack was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis aged two, when his parents sought medical advice because he was failing to thrive.

The condition, which affects the lungs, pancreas and other organs, leads to a build-up of mucus meaning sufferers are particularly susceptible to infection.

“It was a bombshell when we were given the diagnosis because we had never heard of cystic fibrosis," said Martin, of Kingswinford.

“We were shocked when we were told that it’s genetic because there’s no history of the disease in my family or Sue’s.

“The average life expectancy of a sufferer when Jack was diagnosed was just 14, although treatment has since come on in leaps and bound and it is now much longer.

“We just had to get on with things and make sure that if he was going to have a short life it would be full of everything he loved.

“We didn’t wrap him in cotton wool and he was determined not to let his illness hold him back."

Jack played junior rugby as a youngster and led the Dudley Kingswinford first team out as mascot when they played in a cup final at Twickenham in 1999.

“He was a cracking swimmer, played cricket at Himley in his teens, practised taekwondo at Wordsley Church Hall and played guitar, keyboard and drums," said Martin.

“In his teens he formed a band with three friends and they often performed at jamming nights in pubs and clubs around the area.”

Jack attended Tettenhall College from the age of two, starting in nursery and leaving after GCSEs.

He then moved to King Edward College, Stourbridge, to study for his A-levels and gained a place at Manchester University where he was awarded a degree in business management and economics.

Despite a struggle to get full-time employment because of his frequent stays in hospital, he worked as a sales advisor at a music store and later in the export, marketing and sales department of his father’s steel engineering business in Brockmoor, Brierley Hill.

A charity football match organised by Jack’s friends in 2019 raised more than £4,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

“He didn’t give up. He was determined to work and to live as normal a life as possible. Two years ago he moved in to his own house with Becky," said Martin.

“He adored Manchester United and went to as many matches as he could.

“He had a good circle of friends and travelled abroad to places including Dubai, Spain, France, Barbados and the USA.

“He wrote music and owned several guitars, as well as playing keyboard and drums, enjoyed playing golf and even tried indoor skydiving. In his later days he set up a darts board in his house to maintain his competitive edge.”

Jack was taken ill after Christmas and was being treated for kidney stones at Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham when his condition suddenly deteriorated and he died on January 18.

His parents now hope to highlight the need for more research around engineering a therapeutic treatment called phage, which was being developed before the discovery of penicillin. Gene editing research is ongoing and scientists eventually hope to be able to correct the faulty gene.

Martin said: “We’re very proud of everything Jack achieved. He wasn’t going to give up and we would like him to be remembered for his determination and sense of humour. He was an inspiration.”