Essex family’s struggle to bring comatose dad back from China

The family of a man who had a severe stroke while working in China are desperately trying to bring him home. Patrick Sabberton, 43, had worked for 15 years as a music teacher in Shanghai before suffering a hemorrhagic stroke in January 2022.

He has been in a coma ever since, and now his family, from Colchester in Essex, are wanting to bring him home to the UK so they can care for him.

Patrick’s sister Claire, 34, said: “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. Patrick was working at the school, and then he fell poorly. He was taken to hospital in Shanghai and he deteriorated quite quickly. They then found out he was having a hemorrhagic stroke. Basically, it was a brain haemorrhage.

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“I was quite a severe one, and he was rushed into surgery and they did all they could for him. He was in intensive care for several months, on a ventilator. We’re just trying everything we can to try and bring him back.”

Patrick has now been moved out of the intensive care unit (ICU) and is no longer on a ventilator, but is still in a coma. He does have medical insurance, but his family only recently found out that his cover will last just another three months.

When she described her brother, Claire said: “The first thing that always comes to mind when I think of him is what a generous person he is. He would do anything for anyone.

“My brother lights up a room. He’s very funny and everybody loves him.” Patrick also loved to travel, which is how he ended up living and teaching in Shanghai. Music wasn’t just a job. It’s like a passion for him.”

Patrick received a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, and has played the violin since childhood. Since moving to Shanghai, Patrick has made a base for himself, building friendships and relationships. He has two young children, aged 11 and 7.

But once Patrick fell ill, it has been impossible for his family to visit him in hospital. China has very strict Covid rules, and Shanghai recently went through a three-month lockdown.

Claire said that his partner has been with him the whole time, even choosing to lock down in the hospital with Patrick rather than risk not being able to see him by staying at home, which meant she wasn’t able to leave the hospital for several months.

His family, however, have not been able to see him in two years. Normally, Patrick would visit the UK twice a year, but has due to lockdowns hasn’t been able to in some time. He was next due to visit his Essex family this summer.

Claire said: “That just makes it all the more tragic really because he was possibly going to come back this summer. And this happened in January so it’s made it even worse because we missed him already.”

Now the family are fundraising to bring Patrick home, and are attempting to reach a goal of £180,000 in order to do so. Claire explained that, alongside the medical insurance running out, the sheer distance also makes it very challenging for them to help.

She said: “We just feel that we want him closer to us so that we can do what we can to help him, and to be there for him because at the moment it is so tricky for us. We can’t just do calls.

“We just want to be able to be there for him, and we think it’s important that he’s close to his family with all of this going on.”

Medical repatriation on its own is very expensive, but on top of this, Patrick’s family are wanting raise a bit extra in order to cover private hospital fees until the correct support becomes available through the NHS.

But the sheer amount that they are planning to raise is quite daunting, with Claire saying: “We have to raise that amount of money. I’m trying to be positive about it, and just seeing all the donations that have come in so far is more than I could have imagined in such a short space of time.”

“You always just think of them as just your big brother and you don’t really think about it too much until something like this happens. And then when it happens, you really reflect on the kind of person they were and how much you missed them.

“You don’t realise how much you miss them. Obviously, he lives so far away, but we were in contact all the time. He was always checking in to make sure everyone was okay because that’s the kind of person he is.”

You can find out more about the fundraiser here.


Essex Live – Colchester