Son Left Brain Dam­aged By His Dad

Ab­bie was ready to be a par­ent, but was Luke?

Pick Me Up! Special - - News -

Romeo was a bril­liant baby

Ab­bie Dean, 22 Newquay, Corn­wall

At 18, with a sum­mer of trav­el­ling ahead of me, I wasn’t look­ing for a boyfriend. And I cer­tainly wasn’t in­ter­ested in Luke Hon­ey­church.

In 2013, he’d come to spend a few months in Newquay – my home town – with his sis­ter, and we had mu­tual friends.

But, de­spite ini­tially think­ing he was a bit gobby, he was ac­tu­ally funny and out­go­ing.

‘We’re go­ing out if you want to come?’ he said one night.

We started hang­ing out to­gether, just hav­ing fun.

Nei­ther of us wanted any­thing se­ri­ous… ‘I’m off in June,’ I told Luke, then 21, from the start.

I’d booked to go to Thai­land and Aus­tralia with mates.

I couldn’t wait!

Before long, Luke moved back to Ply­mouth and I went off trav­el­ling. I had an amazing time in Thai­land, but didn’t feel well. Tired and sick… It was so bad, I came home in­stead of see­ing Aus­tralia. Then I re­alised I hadn’t had a pe­riod for a while. I was on the pill, so I didn’t re­ally think I could be preg­nant… Only, five preg­nancy tests proved oth­er­wise! Call­ing Luke, I broke the news. Al­though a bit shocked, he was great about it. ‘What­ever you want to do, I’ll sup­port you,’ he told me. It may have been un­ex­pected, but I wanted this baby. My fam­ily weren’t best pleased, but they came around. And Luke and I de­cided we’d make a go of things – for the sake of our baby. So, in Au­gust 2013, I moved to Ply­mouth to be with him. His fam­ily was great, and things be­tween us were good for a while. My preg­nancy pro­gressed well, but I piled on 5st in weight. ‘I’m crav­ing ap­ple crum­ble and cus­tard again,’ I kept say­ing to Luke. I couldn’t get enough of it! And, as time went on, I started to feel like Luke was more in­ter­ested in go­ing out par­ty­ing than he was in me. I hoped the ar­rival of our baby would change that. In Fe­bru­ary 2014, Luke was with me when I went into labour. Baby Romeo ar­rived weigh­ing 8lb 6oz at Der­ri­ford Hos­pi­tal and I had the first hold. ‘Wow!’ I said, ab­so­lutely be­sot­ted with him. He was gor­geous – and he had my nose! Doc­tors were con­cerned about his breath­ing but, thank­fully, ev­ery­thing was OK. Back home, we took each day at a time. Romeo was a bril­liant baby and only screamed when he was hun­gry. Luke helped with chang­ing nap­pies and day­time feeds. I couldn’t be­lieve I had a son! ‘He’s amazing,’ I kept say­ing. But Luke seemed jeal­ous of the at­ten­tion I paid Romeo. By the time

our boy was three months old, Luke and I re­alised things be­tween us were not work­ing out.

So, in May 2014, we split up. Luke moved back in with his par­ents, but asked about Romeo and looked after him one night a week and on al­ter­nate week­ends. On Fri­day 27 June 2014, I was in­vited on a rare night out. ‘Can you come and watch Romeo?’ I asked Luke. He agreed. Later, I gave Romeo a bot­tle and a kiss before hand­ing him to Luke. ‘Thanks,’ I said, ex­cited to be go­ing out. I spent the evening in Walk­a­bout and Wether­spoons in Ply­mouth, tex­ting Luke reg­u­larly to check on Romeo. ‘He’s a bit moany,’ he replied. I didn’t think any­thing of it. Ba­bies can be grizzly. I was sup­posed to stay at my sis­ter-in­law’s that night, but by 1am, I wanted my own bed. Head­ing home, I was sur­prised to hear Romeo cry­ing. ‘Can you set­tle him?’ I asked Luke, as I had had a few drinks.

But he couldn’t calm our boy down. So in­stead I picked Romeo up and took him into my bed to try and soothe him. Only, he was star­ing blankly at the ceil­ing and twitch­ing.

Wor­ried, I started to panic. ‘Call 999!’ I shouted to Luke. ‘Some­thing’s wrong with him.’ When Luke didn’t re­act, I called for an am­bu­lance my­self.

I couldn’t deal with his ir­ra­tional jeal­ousy right now.

Ig­nor­ing him, I grabbed a few things for Romeo.

He was my pri­or­ity – I didn’t give Luke a sec­ond thought as I bun­dled into the am­bu­lance with my baby.

We were rushed to Der­ri­ford Hos­pi­tal, where Romeo was taken for a CT scan. ‘We think he’s had a bleed on the brain,’ the doc­tor said.

I didn’t know what it meant – or why it’d hap­pened – but they wanted to air­lift Romeo to Bris­tol Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal...

He had a bleed on his brain

Romeo was put on life sup­port

Shortly af­ter­wards, Luke ar­rived at the hos­pi­tal and we called our fam­i­lies.

‘I can’t go to Bris­tol as I’ve got a Job­seeker’s ap­point­ment to­mor­row,’ Luke said.

‘Fine,’ I mut­tered.

All I cared about was Romeo. As Romeo was taken to Bris­tol, my brother Jamie, 24, drove me there.

At the hos­pi­tal, doc­tors con­firmed the bleed on Romeo’s brain. ‘We don’t know how it’ll af­fect him,’ they said.

I burst into tears. Al­ready poorly Romeo was hav­ing seizures and was on life­sup­port. ‘It looks like shaken baby syn­drome,’ I was told. ‘What?’ I gasped, hor­ri­fied. I’d never hurt my pre­cious boy. But would Luke? ‘What did you do?’ I snarled when he ar­rived later.

‘I didn’t do any­thing,’ he snapped.

Thank­fully, my brave boy fought on, but he was di­ag­nosed with epilepsy, di­a­betes in­sipidus and, later, cerebral palsy. ‘It’s a term for neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions that can af­fect speech, move­ment and de­vel­op­ment,’ my sis­ter Tara, 27, who’s a nurse, ex­plained later.

Dev­as­tated, I broke down. How had this hap­pened?

Con­cerned, the

police and So­cial Ser­vices started an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what had hap­pened. After that, I didn’t see or hear from Luke. In­stinc­tively, I knew he’d done this. To his own son… How could he? Luke was Romeo’s dad. He was sup­posed to pro­tect him from harm. By then, Romeo was be­ing

fed by a nasal tube, as he couldn’t swal­low prop­erly.

He was also given med­i­ca­tion for his con­di­tions. I spoke to him and sang to him. ‘I love you,’ I kept telling him. Fi­nally, after four months, he was dis­charged from the hos­pi­tal.

I had learnt how to use his feed­ing tubes, but his eye­sight was af­fected, too.

I still didn’t know ex­actly what had hap­pened. But I knew Luke had ru­ined my boy’s life.

Then, in June, at Truro Crown Court, the hor­ri­fy­ing truth emerged when Luke Hon­ey­church, then 24, ad­mit­ted child cru­elty.

On the night I’d left Romeo with his dad to en­joy a rare night out, my lit­tle lad had started cry­ing.

In­stead of cradling and com­fort­ing him, Luke had shouted and sworn at him before shak­ing him with such force he’d caused life-chang­ing con­di­tions.

Then he’d lied about what’d hap­pened, and didn’t get my son help… If only he’d called an am­bu­lance – or me – things might’ve been dif­fer­ent.

Luke was sen­tenced to three years in jail. A slap on the wrist.

‘Romeo’s the one with a life sen­tence,’ I fumed.

De­spite ev­ery­thing, my brave boy, now three, loves mu­sic and is so happy. He bab­bles con­stantly and has reg­u­lar phys­io­ther­apy to help his move­ment.

But think­ing about how dif­fer­ent his life could be breaks my heart.

I’ll never for­give Luke.

My world

I’ll pro­tect him for­ever

Romeo just would­nõt set­tle

We’ll get through the chal­lenges to­gether

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