Tragic death of ‘inspirational’ football club’ physio (46)

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An INSPIRATIONAL Burnley man who dedicated his life to helping people despite suffering a serious spinal condition has died aged 46.

Andrew Fildes was born with spina bifida, which leaves many sufferers paralysed, and doctors said he would never walk.

But Andrew conquered his disability and went on to become a football physio for teams in Padiham, Sabden and Nelson, and worked as a carer for other disabled people.

Even though his health was deteriorating, big-hearted Andrew continued giving up his time to help friends and family until his death.

He died of bronchial pneumonia at his Rossendale Road home last Wednesday.

His brother Terry (56) said the family have been devastated. “It is absolutely heartbreaking. All he wanted to do was help other people. Everything he did was for anyone that knew him.

“He has always been there for us if we needed him.

“We have had so many messages from football managers and people who knew him. There have been people from all over the country ringing with messages of support.”

When Andrew was born he was diagnosed with spina bifida. The condition is the incomplete closure in the spinal column which causes muscle weakness or paralysis.

“They said he would never be able to walk when he was a baby,” Terry said. “A lot of people who have the condition cannot even walk and are in a wheelchair

“True to form, he lived his life where he had to prove everyone wrong.

“He was a typical lad growing up. He just wanted to prove to everyone he was a man.”

Andrew went to Brun Lea School and later attended St Theodore’s RC High School.

Growing up, Andrew was interested in music and learned how to DJ. He would play venues across Burnley, including KoKo’s and Ighten Leigh Club.

Andrew, who worked as a sewing machine mechanic at Dorma in Briercliffe Road, loved football but because he could not play, became a physio.

He became “bucket man” at many clubs where Terry coached including Nelson FC, Padiham FC and Sabden FC.

Terry said: “He helped me a lot over the years. He helped me in anyway he could whether it was washing the kits or coming on with the sponge to treat injuries. Everyone knew him.”

Andrew started fishing with the handicapped fellowship in Burnley and, true to form, wanted to prove he was the best fisherman in Burnley.

Later in life, Andrew volunteered to care for other disabled people.

Terry said: “He was a carer. He looked after people with disabilities. People who needed taking shopping, helping in and out of the bath or getting out of bed. Everything he did was to help people.”

A funeral service will be held this Friday at 2-15 p.m. at St John’s RC Church in Ivy Street and at Burnley Crematorium at 3-40 p.m. Everybody is welcome to attend. A gathering will be held after the service at Rosegrove Unity at 4-15 p.m.

Andrew is survived by mum Patricia, brothers Terry (56), Bernard (54), Christopher (42), sisters Rose (58) and Dorothy (50) and partner Steph.