In February 2020, former Glamorgan and England cricketer Steve James and his family’s life changed forever after the sudden death of his daughter Bethan aged, 21.
James described the events as having ‘devastated’ wife Jane, his and son Rhys’ lives – with the tragic events made worse by him missing Bethan’s death.
James, who works as a journalist, was away covering a Six Nations match in Ireland when Bethan was taken seriously ill, with his journey back delayed by poor weather and she died before he got home.
Bethan had battled illness before, having undergone a bowel operation at a young age, and she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in the year before her death.
James played in two Tests for England in 1998 and holds the record for Glamorgan’s highest individual score – 309 not out against Sussex in 2000.
Since retiring in 2003, he has gone on to forge a career as a successful and respected cricket and rugby writer.
And at the Vitality Blast Finals he will discuss the impact the tragedy has had on his family, for the first time, in an emotional film on Sky Sports that has been produced by the Professional Cricketers’ Trust.
James, 54, said: “During the Saturday, Bethan just deteriorated and deteriorated.
“I got back to Heathrow Airport and Jane (his wife) was then telling me that Bethan had got sepsis.
“I’m driving back along the M4 and then eventually I get a call from Jane saying Bethan’s gone and a nurse comes on to tell me to pull over because I’m obviously in no state [to drive].
“So, I pull over, I’m sick on the side of the road and I wish I’d been here – when I left, I didn’t actually go up and see Bethan, I shouted to her and said ‘goodbye’ from downstairs.
“The next time I see her she’s lying dead in a hospital. That’s something that’s going to stay with me for the rest of my life.”
James has channelled his energy into fundraising in Bethan’s memory and raising awareness of Crohn’s disease.
He recently interviewed England spinner Jack Leach, who when England toured New Zealand 18 months ago, suffered food poisoning and was ultimately hospitalised with a bout of sepsis.
Leach suffers from Crohn’s disease that was first diagnosed at fourteen and takes immunosuppressant medication to deal with it. As a result of his diminished immune system, a sepsis infection could be life-threatening.
James revealed it was his cricketing career and link to the Professional Cricketers’ Trust that was his and his family’s salvation at getting the help they needed to get through such an awful time whilst also praising the impact of 2 Wish Upon A Star charity who supported immediate support for the family.
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust is the registered charity that supports members of the Professional Cricketers’ Association or their families when they are in need and their help was appreciated.
James, who designed and built a corner of his garden in Bethan’s memory, said: “Jane and Rhys have all had the same amount of counselling sessions that I’ve had, and we’ve had quite a few family counselling sessions as well.
“Jane and Rhys are enormously grateful for that help they have got.
“It has just come about because I happened to play cricket and there’s a Professional Cricketers’ Trust there who can help me and my family as well.
“We are really indebted to them for the help they’ve given us.
The counselling is the main thing, but they’ve helped me with other things along the way, so it’s so reassuring for players, past and present, that they know they’ve got the Trust there to help them.”
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust is set to celebrate the biggest day in the county calendar while highlighting the life-changing work of the charity at Edgbaston on Saturday 16 July.
The Vitality Blast Finals Day is to support the players’ charity for the third successive year and with several heart-breaking and heart-warming stories told throughout the build-up, fundraising activities are now confirmed.
The Trust was created to support the health and wellbeing of PCA members who have entertained cricket supporters over the years on the pitch for when they are in desperate need for help.
Several past and present players have spoken so openly on support they have received, including Yorkshire Vikings spinner Dom Bess and Hampshire Hawks seamer Chris Wood who are set to feature on Saturday.
More recently, former Somerset batter Arul Suppiah has revealed the torture of his eating disorder while former Yorkshire all-rounder Jamie Hood has spoken about living life to the full despite no mobility below his neck following a freak accident.
With the Trust taking centre stage for Finals Day, awareness of the small charity will be raised with the aim to create funds to continue its work in being a vital support mechanism for cricket’s biggest assets, its players.
James said: “I do not think you realise when you do donate to the Professional Cricketers’ Trust how much help you are doing and how much people appreciate that.
“Bethan made me, Jane, and Rhys immensely proud. We’ll never forget her, and we just love her so much.”
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust provides vital support to past and present cricketers in England and Wales and their immediate families when in desperate need. The charity’s work is all encompassing, whether it be for unforeseen physical or mental needs. Vitality Blast Finals Day is supporting the players’ charity – to find out more about the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, visit professionalcricketerstrust.org