Lessons in love
My brave boy made me who I am today
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