Tributes paid to 'gentle giant' ex-Falkirk Fury basketballer who died from rare disease aged 24

Tributes have been paid to a former Falkirk Fury basketballer who died aged 24 following a lengthy battle with illness.

By Jonathon Reilly
Thursday, 21st October 2021, 7:00 am
Former Falkirk Fury player Rory Wilson married wife Rebecca at a ceremony in Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary in 2020. Contributed.
Former Falkirk Fury player Rory Wilson married wife Rebecca at a ceremony in Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary in 2020. Contributed.

“Gentle giant” Rory Wilson was surrounded by his family when he died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge on September 28.

Rory was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis and autoimmune hepatitis while a pupil at St Mungo’s High School.

The Carronshore man was rushed to hospital a couple of years later to undergo a liver transplant.

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Carronshore man Rory Wilson with mum Donna. Picture: Michael Gillen.

The rare disease, which attacks the bile ducts, stayed at bay until November 2019 when Rory had to have his large colon removed, suffered a perforation in the small bowel and contracted sepsis – meaning he required dialysis so his kidneys could function.

After marrying wife Rebecca Macadam, 24, in an emotional ceremony in Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary in late 2020, he was flown down to England by air ambulance to be assessed for a life-saving procedure known as a multi-visceral transplant involving the liver, small bowel and possibly a kidney.

His wife set up a JustGiving page to raise funds to allow Rory to stay down in Cambridge during the assessment period.

The ex-Fury centre underwent the operation on September 11 this year, however, an infection set in between his aorta and the transplant graft.

Rory Wilson was described by mum Donna as a "wonderful boy". Contributed.

He spent the rest of the time in an Intensive Care Unit at Addenbrooke’s where staff “tried absolutely everything they could”.

Sadly, Rory didn’t recover from the effects of the infection.

Confirming the news, wife Rebecca posted: “After a long and hard battle with life, Rory has sadly passed away peacefully this evening.

“The man was and still is my world and I will miss him greatly, as will many of his friends and family. None of this feels real but he is no longer suffering or in any pain which I think we all agree is what he’s always wanted.

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“Fly high sweetheart, god bless you.”

His loved ones say Rory, who would’ve turned 25 on Monday, still managed to bring joy to others throughout his illness.

Wife Rebecca, from Larbert, said: “Rory was just one of a kind.

“He was always helping others and, even though he was going through so much, he was always finding a way to make others smile.

“He was really loving and loved to help other people. He was very selfless – he was a proper gentle giant.

“He was always so nice to everybody and even right up until the end: a couple of weeks before we got the call, he was officially a member of the Round Table and was wanting to fundraise for Strathcarron and the Santa sleigh they do.

“He was brave. He faced so much but could still put a smile on his face. Rory was very strong emotionally and physically.

“He used to think he was 6ft11 but they remeasured him for the funeral and he’s actually 7ft2 – he would’ve laughed at that.

“I think a message to take from Rory’s life and journey is there is always hope in the darkest of hours, because there really was. He always bounced back after bad news but this time was just too much for him.

“We just want to thank everybody for their support.”

Rory’s mum and dad, Donna and Ewen, were with their son in his final days at Addenbrooke’s and were joined by Rebecca and her parents, Carolann and Craig.

The passion Rory had for basketball, which he played from the age of 13, came second only to his love for his family, including brother, Ewen, 27, his friends and his teammates.

Donna said: “He was just a wonderful boy.

“He always put others before himself. He was always happy and smiling, always trying to make other people laugh – just a kind, gentle, loving boy.

“He really loved the basketball. I think he loved the family side you get from being in a club like Falkirk Fury. It’s just fantastic support.

“All the boys have been down or got in contact with us, giving us their support. It’s amazing to know they’re thinking about you, as well as Rory.

“Because of Covid we haven’t seen the boys for a couple of years but as soon as they come to the door it’s like you saw them just yesterday. They’re such wonderful guys.

“The club’s words and actions have meant such a lot. We could never put into words just how much it’ll mean to us because when we think of them, we think of Rory.

“Addenbrooke’s Hospital treated him like he was their own son, so did the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh.

“There’s nothing we can say apart from thank you for everything they tried to do.”

Falkirk Fury shared a message of condolence online following Rory’s death.

As a player, he helped the club win national titles and secured a silver medal at the 2017 Transplant Games in Malaga.

Rory, who also played for Falkirk Rugby Club, was well-known for his fighting spirit.

John Bunyan, Fury head coach, said: “Rory was a very likeable, respectful individual, who was a fabulous teammate in all the teams he played in at Fury.

“He worked hard on his game and to continually try and not only overcome the illness that unfortunately came his way, he wanted to go beyond and continue to play sport and play at as high a level as he could.

“'Big Rory' will always be a Fury legend.”

A funeral service will be held for Rory at the Dobbie Hall in Larbert on Friday, October 22 (3pm).

A private ceremony will then take place on Monday, October 25 in West Lothian.

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