Lessons in love

My brave boy made me who I am to­day

Chat - - Contents - By Ch­esca Cas­sells, 26, from Kil­marnock

With my hands shak­ing, I stared at the two blue lines.

‘But I can’t be preg­nant,’ I cried to my mum Aileen, 47.

It was Oc­to­ber 2014 and I was still re­cov­er­ing from a fierce bat­tle with breast can­cer.

I’d been di­ag­nosed at 23, with a baby girl, Baylee, then 7 months old.

Af­ter a year of chemo­ther­apy and a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy, I’d got the all clear, thank­fully.

But the treat­ment had rav­aged my body, stolen my hair. Doc­tors had warned me that it would take my fer­til­ity, too. I’d been heart­bro­ken. Only now, gaw­ping at the pos­i­tive test, I was over­joyed. ‘Won­der­ful!’ Mum beamed. ‘It’s def­i­nitely a boy,’ I said and stocked up on blue bootees. This baby was a ray of sun­shine af­ter my can­cer bat­tle. At 20 weeks, the sono­g­ra­pher con­firmed my sus­pi­cions. I was hav­ing a boy! ‘Any health is­sues in the fam­ily?’ he asked. I ex­plained that I had a ge­netic con­di­tion called fron­tometa­phy­seal dys­pla­sia (FMD) which causes ab­nor­mal­i­ties in skele­tal de­vel­op­ment. It can be se­ri­ous but, luck­ily, it only af­fected the bones in my ears. I wore a hear­ing aid but was oth­er­wise healthy. Baylee had been fine. Only, the sono­g­ra­pher got a con­sul­tant... ‘FMD can be more se­ri­ous in boys,’ he warned. A few weeks later, the con­sul­tant called with test re­sults. My baby did have FMD. ‘So sorry,’ the con­sul­tant said. I was of­fered a ter­mi­na­tion, went into shock.

This was my mir­a­cle baby... I could feel him kick­ing, was con­sumed with love for him. ‘No!’ I said. I had to give him a chance. Mum wor­ried how I’d cope with a se­verely dis­abled child. How it would af­fect Baylee. ‘It’ll be fine,’ I in­sisted. I’d fought can­cer, now I’d help my son fight, too. I was mon­i­tored closely. Then, in June 2015, Kairo was born by Cae­sarean at South­ern Gen­eral Hospi­tal, in Glas­gow.

Doc­tors took him straight to the Neona­tal Unit, where he was put on life support.

‘He’s very poorly,’ the mid­wife warned. ‘He’s got to make it!’ I sobbed. They wheeled me down to see him, but Kairo was sur­rounded by medics and beep­ing ma­chines.

His lit­tle belly looked bloated, his skin pur­ple.

Then he stopped breath­ing…

I looked on in hor­ror as doc­tors re­sus­ci­tated him.

But his air­ways were so nar­row he needed a tube in his throat to breathe.

‘We’re not sure how long he’ll sur­vive,’ the mid­wife said.

I sat be­side his in­cu­ba­tor will­ing him to keep fight­ing.

Later that day, Mum brought Baylee to meet her lit­tle brother.

‘These tubes are keep­ing Kairo alive,’ I ex­plained.

‘When can we take him home?’ she asked.

Truth was, we might never take my baby home with us.

But how could I ex­plain that to Baylee when I couldn’t even be­lieve it my­self?

Baylee and I stayed in a flat near the hospi­tal, while nurses trained me to clean and change the feed­ing tube in Kairo’s neck. It was a lot to take in. But these were the most im­por­tant lessons in my life and I prac­tised till I was per­fect.

At a month old, Kairo was taken off life support.

Dress­ing him in a stripy vest, I lay him on my lap.

Nurses showed me how to use cotton buds to clean his mouth and nose.

And, at 6 months, I took him home and set up his oxy­gen ma­chine. Fi­nally, I could use what the nurses showed me. Care for my baby my­self.

But, just weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, Kairo was strug­gling to breathe.

I rushed him back to the hospi­tal while Mum looked

I could use what nurses showed me. Care for my baby my­self

af­ter Baylee. Only, his or­gans w were fail­ing. ‘There’s noth­ing more we can do,’ doc­tors said.

By now, they’d de­tected a se­ri­ous heart ab­nor­mal­ity.

‘He should be at home then,’ I in­sisted. ‘Then he will be mas­ter of his own des­tiny.’

So, in Fe­bru­ary 2016, I brought Kairo home again.

I knew that he wouldn’t have much time left…

I was a wreck, wor­ry­ing that each day might be his last.

I made a bucket list and, with Mum’s help, took Baylee and Kairo to the sea­side and to feed the ducks in the park. We even went swimming. And, a few days af­ter com­ing home, Kairo smiled – even though the doc­tors had said that he never would.

He watched car­toons and had cud­dles.

And I en­joyed ev­ery pre­cious mo­ment I had with him.

But, by April, Kairo was work­ing hard to breathe.

The doc­tor vis­ited and gave him mor­phine.

‘We’re reach­ing the end now,’ he told me.

That night, I lay Kairo on my chest and sang to him.

‘I love you,’ I said tear­fully, over and again.

Then my son passed away, peace­fully, aged 10 months.

The next day, I bathed him, dressed him in dun­ga­rees and brushed his brown, sandy hair. He looked peace­ful. ‘He’ll be a pur­ple but­ter­fly now,’ Baylee, then 4, said.

Heart­bro­ken, I or­gan­ised my lit­tle boy’s fu­neral.

For a long time af­ter­wards, I strug­gled – and if it wasn’t for Baylee, I’d have given up.

In May, I re­turned to work in a lo­cal shop.

But then my su­per­vi­sor sug­gested that I work in care.

‘You did all that train­ing to un­der­stand Kairo’s med­i­cal needs,’ she said.

I loved the idea of us­ing our trauma to help oth­ers.

So I ap­plied for a po­si­tion as a nurs­ing as­sis­tant at Crosshouse Hospi­tal, in Kil­marnock.

Last June, on what would’ve been Kairo’s sec­ond birth­day, I got the job.

Now, my job is so var­ied, I’m help­ing peo­ple with all sorts of con­di­tions ev­ery day.

And ev­ery day, as I pull on my blue nurse’s tu­nic, I smile. Kairo led me here. Baylee, now 5, is such a car­ing girl, too.

Ev­ery night be­fore bed, we light a sparkler. ‘For Kairo,’ Baylee says. He’s def­i­nitely made us who we are to­day.

And he will al­ways be in our hearts.

Fun at the fair for Baylee, me and Kairo

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