‘Terrified’ mum torn between baby with brain injury and terminally ill dad turned to hospice for support

A mum-of-four has spoken of the “terrifying” moment she had to choose between caring for her seriously ill baby and her dying father.

Kate Lythgoe, who lives near Prestatyn, gave birth to son William in the summer of 2018, just three months after her mum died suddenly of a heart condition.

William, who is now three years old, suffered complications at birth which meant his brain was starved of oxygen and led to severe hypoxic brain damage.

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The traumatic birth left both mum and baby in critical condition.

Mum Kate said: “Initially he was born without a heartbeat. He was resuscitated and taken to neonatal intensive care, and we were told to expect the worst.

“It was a huge whirlwind because I was very poorly too and the first I knew was when I was in intensive care myself.”

Kate Lythgoe with three-year-old son William
Kate Lythgoe with three-year-old son William

Following a healthy pregnancy, Kate recalls the shock of seeing baby William so unwell.

“You go through pregnancy with all the checks and everything is good – but I don’t think anything can prepare you.

“Will was the chubbiest, beautiful baby and you wouldn’t have known anything was wrong other than the severe bruising he had and the tubes going into his body.”

William’s parents Kate and Andy said they brought his older brothers to meet him at the hospital, but to “say goodbye too just in case”.

Despite preparing to let their “beautiful” boy go, Kate says Will continued to defy the odds and was eventually discharged from intensive care.

Three-year-old William with older brothers Sam, Jacob and Josh
Three-year-old William with older brothers Sam, Jacob and Josh

William was then referred to Tŷ Gobaith Children’s Hospice by his consultant.

Kate said she had heard of Hope House and Tŷ Gobaith because she had signed up to play their fundraising lottery, but like many others, never thought she would need their help.

However, with William’s condition beginning to stabilise, other parts of Kate’s life started to fall apart.

Within a very short period of time, her dad Terry was diagnosed with incurable cancer and she separated from Andy, William’s dad.

It was at this point that Kate says she was faced with the “terrifying” decision of whether to care for William, or be with her dad in his final days.

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With nowhere else to turn, she phoned Tŷ Gobaith’s crisis team for support.

She said: “A year after Dad’s first diagnosis, we found out his cancer had spread. He was in hospital and really scared and I was torn because I really needed to be with him.

“Andy has a condition which means he is unable to care for Will overnight and I didn’t know what to do. So I phoned Tŷ Gobaith to see if they could help.”

She continued: “I can’t thank them enough for just giving me those precious days so me and my sister Nic could stay with Dad and hold his hand because he was terrified about dying on his own in hospital.

“I arranged to bring him home for end of life care, and I just couldn’t have done that without the support of Tŷ Gobaith.”

Kate Lythgoe's dad Terry loved spending time with his family
Kate Lythgoe’s dad Terry loved spending time with his family

Kate is hoping to spread awareness about the importance of Tŷ Gobaith services which gave her family support when they needed it most.

William, who is now three, faces an uncertain future, and the hospice continues to support both him and his family.

Kate said: “Will has defied the odds so far but it is always at the back of your mind and we live for every day because the future is so uncertain. Will was so unwell in November and that showed me how quickly he can deteriorate.

“But we’ve also all learned so much from Will already about life and love and understanding and patience. It is a true life lesson. His brothers all adore him and he is the total focus of this family. It is a bumpy road ahead, we all know that, but how bumpy, who knows? Only Will can decide that.

“What I do know is that life so far would have been a huge struggle without Tŷ Gobaith. They are just our extended family and a really important part of our lives.

“Whatever challenges I face they will always offer to help. It is so comforting to know that there is always someone lovely there at the end of the phone 24/7, 365 days of the year.

“It is comforting to know too that should the worst happen Tŷ Gobaith will be there. I’ve seen the Snowflake Suite and heard other families’ stories about how the help from Tŷ Gobaith doesn’t end when your child’s life ends.

“It is something that you never want to think about, but it is always there at the back of my mind and it is a huge comfort to know that we would be given time and support, that the staff would know us and they’d know Will and it wouldn’t be awkward

” I could just be a mum and not have to hold it all together because I know they will hold us all together.

“Nobody ever wants to use a children’s hospice, but when you do need it you are so grateful that it is there.”

Kate and William are pictured on the front of 17,000 envelopes being sent to supporters of the charity next week.

The ‘William’s Story Appeal’ is also featured on the charity’s website from Monday and on its social media channels.

If you would like to help Hope House and Tŷ Gobaith Children’s Hospices support children like William please visit their online appeal HERE.

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