Nikki and Spence share their son, Bradley’s story, which they hope will be helpful to other parents.
Bradley our second child was born on November 5th 1999 and was absolutely gorgeous and so easy to love. He was full term and very bonny but developed jaundice at a few weeks old, I was told not to worry as it was very common but at four weeks old, he was admitted to our local hospital here in North Devon due to continuing jaundice for investigations. Our paediatrician was fantastic. He had worked at Kings College Liver unit and was concerned that Bradley had biliary atresia. Two days later he was referred to Kings College Liver unit and we drove to London in a state of shock, as were all our family.
Bradley had his life saving Kasai surgery on Christmas Eve 1999 by Mark Davenport, (his surgeon – now a professor) who gave up his annual leave to do his surgery for which we will be forever grateful.
Bradley’s prognosis was very poor indeed and Mark discussed he was likely to need at least one transplant but he may not see his first birthday due to other issues which only became apparent at the time of surgery. We were devastated and I felt as though I had dropped into a huge black hole I had no way of getting out of. We then knew that the next few months were going to be tough but no one can prepare you for this or how it feels.
Anyway, we had a few rough years with his health and various hospital admissions but he did really well and did not require a transplant . Bradley not only made his first birthday, but his tenth and 20th too.
Bradley went to our local school, then college in Exeter on the train where he met Charlotte at the age of 17. He then went to Cardiff University to study Earth Sciences and qualified as an Engineering Geologist last year in June with a 2:1 which he was delighted with. Bradley started his first job on June 21st, a week after his last exam and has now been with the company for a year now.
We always encouraged Bradley to do as many sports and activities as he wanted to. He not only is a good sailor and canoeist but has mountain biked all over the place too including the UK, Alps and Canada. He can also do a neat Dressage test in a one-day event and is brilliant with horses, which is just as well as Charlotte is also horsey and about to buy her first horse. He has climbed lots of mountains and loves walking.
Unfortunately for us, we didn’t find out about CLDF until Bradley was nearly six months old. I had no idea when he was first admitted to Kings that there was wonderful support available to us. I clearly remember seeing a booklet at one of his appointments and I plucked up the courage to call and actually spoke to (former CEO) Catherine Arkley for about 30 minutes or so.
Since then we have had lots of support over the phone which has been great and, because of this, we’ve arranged cream teas at my parents’ home multiple times and twice climbed Helvellyn mountain in the Lake District raising much needed money to carry on all the good work CLDF do. Although Brad is an adult now, we still feel very passionate, as does, about supporting families, research and all the other good things the charity does for so many people and families.
Bradley (22) and Charlotte have now been together for over five years and in August last year we received a surprise when they rang to say that they were buying a house locally in a pretty village near Exeter. They moved into their lovely first home together two months ago after totally renovating the cottage which was great fun for all of us. Bradley and Charlotte wanted to do most of the work themselves and have both worked extremely hard with a little help from their parents who also like a challenge.
Bradley is loving life and remains very well, he works across the UK and enjoys every minute of his life at home and at work, I even became a cat granny a few weeks ago!
So, after many ups and downs during Bradley’s life time it is wonderful to be able to tell his story and the new life he is living with Charlotte and now Athena their rescue cat .
To all the parents of young children with liver disease we hope this story from a very happy mum and dad brings you some joy and hope for the future of your little one too. Life can be so very hard at times which makes the joy and good times all the more enjoyable and sweeter.