A couple married for almost seven decades died within less than a week of one another.
Les and Audrey Pettitt “never spent a day apart” during their 68-year-long marriage, according to friends and family.
And when Les died on July 10 this year at the age of 93, following a deep vein thrombosis which spread to his lungs, Audrey, 91, passed just four days later.
Audrey’s cause of death was “heart failure”.
"She was lost without him. When he was in hospital for a short time she was completely lost. They were always together, they never spent a day apart,” the pair’s niece, Janice Curran, told SWNS.
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"Audrey had other health problems and I never knew her to have heart problems. I think in a way she did die of a broken heart.
"Their relationship was lovely, they always looked so happy.
"I remember he was quite jovial and she was quite reserved but they suited each other well."
The couple first met when Audrey was 19, and worked at a department store with Les’ sister Jean – whom Les sometimes drove home from work.
"He told Jean he would only take her back if she got him a date with Audrey and that's how they met!,” Janice explained of how the pair met. They married in 1951 and built their own home after purchasing a plot of land.
The pair, who had no children, were close to their nieces and nephews – who treated them as surrogate parents, explained Curran.
“They couldn't have children so I think they struggled with that watching their siblings have a family and children but they had nieces and nephews that they adored,” she said.
"I always called them my second mum and dad.
She added: "We're happy that they're together again."
Is it possible to die of a broken heart?
The British Heart Foundation describes takotsubo cardiomyopathy as a “temporary condition where your heart muscle becomes suddenly weakened or stunned. The left ventricle, one of the heart’s chambers, changes shape.”
It can be brought on by a shock. “About three quarters of people diagnosed with takotsubo cardiomyopathy have experienced significant emotional or physical stress prior to becoming unwell,” the charity says.
This stress could include break-up devastation.
As a result of broken heart syndrome, a person may develop an irregular heartbeat, or the heart may become too weak to pump enough blood throughout the body.
Many people simply recover – the stress goes away and the heart returns to its normal shape. But in some extreme cases, like that of Helen, the change in the shape of the heart can bring on a heart attack and even death.
A spokesperson for Cardiomyopathy UK, Dr Daniel Hammersley, said: “The condition causes temporary weakening of the heart muscles which results in the pumping function of the heart.
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“It can be associated with events that cause intense stress or emotion in some cases. Patients who develop this condition generally experience symptoms of chest pain or breathlessness.
“Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases the heart muscle function recovers within a few weeks. It is a rare condition overall. It affects women more than men. Most frequently it affects people in their 50’s or 60’s, although it has been seen in other age groups.”