Dan’s story

Est. read time: 3-4 minutes.

Dan Walker was a young man with a zest for life.

Despite being born with Down’s Syndrome and having various heart complications, he never let anything hold him back and his cheerful, fun-loving persona made him a popular and well-known character at EACH’s former Quidenham home.

He was into everything, from arts and crafts and cooking to watching films, dancing and dressing up.

He loved cars and football and, thanks to EACH, had many special experiences, including seeing and feeding animals at Banham and Colchester Zoos.

“Dan absolutely loved his time at Quidenham,” said mum Kay.

“He was passionate about so many things and didn’t let his health complications hold him back. Far from it.

“We nearly lost him on one occasion when he had pneumonia and his lungs collapsed.

“He also had numerous heart operations and one of them, to replace a valve, left him paralysed from the waist down.

“He was only three and a half and, to start with, a completely different little boy.

“He needed to use a wheelchair and it was hard for us, because we could see he was struggling and frustrated.

“However, he quickly adapted and showed such resilience to get on with things.

“His trademark smile returned and he made our lives great fun. He was such a character.”

Dan was 24 when he died in 2019.

In the previous decade, he had enjoyed many days and short breaks at Quidenham.

He loved his time there and spent many hours getting creative, making cardboard masks and swords.

“The care and support we all received, as a family, was simply amazing,” said Kay, who is married to Clive.

“The staff were so kind, caring and loving and, as a parent, I’ll always be eternally grateful.

“Dan was my first child and then I had two other babies – Hannah, now 25, and Dillon, now 20. Both of them enjoyed sibling days organised by EACH.

“We spent lots of happy time all together but it was also great for me to be able to leave Dan at Quidenham.

“I was safe in the knowledge he was happy, safe and having fun, which meant I was able to do things with my other two that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

“We’d have days out or perhaps go swimming, without all our lives having to revolve around Dan’s needs.

“It meant I didn’t have to feel guilty and divide my time.”

Kay says Dan enjoyed the attention he got at Quidenham.

Among many highlights, she remembers days when motorbikes and fire engines were brought along for the children to see.

“I also remember going to a special sports car convention at Snettisham, organised to raise funds for EACH,” she said.

“Dan was in his element there.

“We had to drag him home and, as well as getting a ride in a Lotus, they were also doing helicopter rides, which the two of us did with my dad. He loved it so much that he didn’t want to get out, so they took him up again!

“He wasn’t scared of anything and embraced every opportunity that came his way.

“Nothing fazed him and he had such a zest for life. He was full of spirit, got involved in everything and nothing held him back.

“He and we had so many great experiences and we’ll always look back with huge fondness.”

Kay’s mum, Ann, has been volunteering in EACH’s Swaffham shop for the last ten years, as a way of showing her appreciation for the care Dan received.

Published in March 2024

Families’ stories and experiences are unique to them and we have been kindly granted permission to share this family’s story. If you have been affected by what you’ve read or have a question and would like to talk to someone, please contact your local children’s hospice service or Together for Short Lives, the UK charity that supports families caring for seriously ill children (tel: 0808 8088 100).

Would you like us to write and share your own family story?

We give all those receiving support from EACH the opportunity to share their family story. All family members are welcome to get involved if they’d like to and we will never share your story until you are completely happy with it. If you have any questions or are interested in finding out more, please contact Matt Plummer, EACH Media and PR Manager at matt.plummer@each.org.uk.

He made our lives great fun. He was such a character.

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