Amazing teen mum who used her 18th birthday money to save the life of her baby son
Kayleigh Douglas spent her birthday money saving her son’s life
A new phone, clothes, jewellery or a big night out – when it comes to spending 18th birthday present money, most teenagers would choose something frivolous and fun.
But not Kayleigh Douglas. She knew immediately what the money she got for her 18th would do – save the life of her baby son.
Kayleigh was pregnant at 17 and had been advised to terminate her very ill baby because he had zero chance of survival.
But she refused to give up hope. She tracked down a private consultant, booked a £200 appointment with her birthday cash – and begged him to help her and her unborn child.
Her heartfelt pleas worked. The consultant operated for free the very next day, calling it a birthday present.
Kayleigh says: “That £200 birthday money was the best I ever spent because it saved Bobby’s life.”
She didn’t plan to fall pregnant so young, but despite her tender years she quickly came round to the idea of being a mum.
Then at her 20-week scan the doctors found a problem.
Kayleigh says: “I should have been excited but I had a really strong feeling something was wrong.”
She was right to be uneasy.
After revealing Kayleigh was carrying a boy the sonographer said she needed to call for a second opinion – and the room began to fill with doctors all staring at the grainy image on the screen.
Kayleigh, now 22, from Corby, Northants, says: “I was over the moon to see my son and my heart was already full of love for him, but it was obvious my instincts had been right.”
She was given the devastating news that her unborn son had a rare condition – microcystic congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation.
Tiny tumours were building up on the tot’s lungs, crushing his organs. He was given zero chance of survival.
The devastated young girl was advised to terminate the pregnancy.
“I was numb with shock,” Kayleigh says. “I never expected anything that bad. I had already bonded with my baby. I loved him.
“The idea of an abortion to me was unthinkable at that stage. I wasn’t going to give up on my boy that easily. I felt sure that there must be another way.”
So Kayleigh refused an abortion and scoured the internet for hope.
She found a private consultant and, as she was about to turn 18, she earmarked the money she was due to receive to treat herself.
Days later she sat in Prof Kypros Nicolaides’ office in Harley Street having another scan.
He said the baby’s chances were slim but agreed to operate.
“I was so happy that somebody else agreed my baby was worth fighting for,” she recalls.
The next day, at 25 weeks’ pregnant on her 18th birthday, she said goodbye to her mum – who had supported her throughout her ordeal – and was wheeled into theatre at King’s College Hospital , London.
She says: “It wasn’t how I’d imagined spending my 18th birthday but there was nowhere else I would rather have been.”
During the procedure a probe was inserted into her stomach to pierce her little boy’s chest. She then had laser surgery to cut off the blood supply to the tumour mass, shrinking it and easing pressure on his heart.
She says: “I was ecstatic when they told me he had. It was the best birthday present ever.”
But she was warned there was still a chance he would not make it and if he did he would be severely disabled. She named him Bobby that day.
One week later he kicked for the first time.
She says: “I knew then I had made the right decision. It was like he was showing me that I was right not to give up on him.”
But at 27 weeks Kayleigh showed signs of early labour and was given steroid injections to boost the baby’s lungs.
A week later Bobby was in distress and Kayleigh was rushed straight into theatre for an emergency caesarean on July 26, 2010.
She woke to be told Bobby had survived but, weighing just 2lb 14oz, he was in intensive care.
“I couldn’t wait to see him but when I did I was shocked. He was so tiny. There were wires and machinery everywhere,” Kayleigh says.
“The love I felt overwhelmed me. He had a little patch of black hair and a dimple on his chin. I was blown away. I just thought he was amazing.”
Kayleigh spent the next few weeks sitting by his crib telling Bobby all about his family and singing to him.
Then one day a doctor sat her down and warned her life was not going to be easy looking after Bobby.
“He told me he was unlikely to walk or talk and might need help breathing for the rest of his life,” she says.
Kayleigh couldn’t help feeling nobody thought she was up to the job.
“I knew he was telling me my life would change beyond recognition and be very different to my friends. I wondered if the same would have been said to an older mum?
“But none of that mattered. Like any mum I just wanted to look after my baby. Age didn’t come into it. We’d come this far, I was hardly going to give up on him now.”
Nine weeks after he was born she held Bobby for the first time.
She says: “A nurse lifted him out of his crib and wrapped him in a blue fleece blanket I had bought for him. When he was placed in my arms, tears welled up. He was just so gorgeous.”
Weeks turned into months and Bobby surpassed expectations. But spending every waking minute at hospital with her son spelled the end for her relationship with his teen dad and they split up.
It gave people even more reason to doubt her.
She says: “One doctor took me aside and asked me if I honestly thought I could cope with Bobby and all his needs as a teenager on my own.
“I was offended as I hadn’t done anything to make him doubt me – I had been there night and day. I only left once a week to wash my clothes.
“Yes, I was a teenager and I was a single mum – but I knew I had the strength in me to do the best for Bobby.”
Nurses taught her how to use his ventilator and change his tracheotomy breathing and feeding tubes.
And when he was 18 months old, she was finally able to take him home to the flat she’d had specially adapted.
“It was so exciting but also stressful at first,” she says. “The hospital had been home to us for so long and although I did a lot for Bobby there, I had the back-up of the nurses when I needed it.
“At home I was too scared to sleep and just watched him all the time to make sure he was breathing. But he just got stronger and stronger.”
Kayleigh also found love again with an old school friend, Jason, who knew all about Bobby and his condition.
He moved in and one year after Bobby came home Kayleigh got pregnant again. They married when she was 20 weeks’ pregnant with a daughter they named Layla.
But tragically at 21 weeks Kayleigh miscarried. The couple have since suffered more miscarriages and now Jason, 22, plans to adopt Bobby.
Despite the tragedies the couple have been through, Kayleigh has remained determined her son will thrive.
Recently four-year-old Bobby took his first steps, something Kayleigh was told he was never likely to do.
Recalling the moment, she says: “It was raining so we hadn’t been able to go out and Bobby was playing in the lounge.
“He was cruising around the furniture using the sofa to keep up when he just took some steps across the floor.
“He had a huge smile on his face and I was screaming and clapping.”
Days later the family took their first break to a holiday park in Yorkshire.
Kayleigh made a purchase she had never imagined she would need – a set of reins for Bobby.
She says: “He was off, there was no stopping him once he knew he could walk.”
Bobby has surpassed all expectations.
His breathing tube was taken out last year and he now goes to a primary school for disabled children, something Kayleigh never thought would happen.
He still has a feeding tube and will always need support with speech and mobility, but Kayleigh says this is a small price to pay considering she was told he would not survive.
And she feels she has proved all of her doubters wrong.
“I am so proud of my son. He is my world and has been since the minute he was born. And I’m proud of myself too because I know I’m a good mother and I know I have always done the best for Bobby.
“Age is just a number when it comes to being a mother. I might be young but I’ve been through more than most mums do in a lifetime.
“It’s not been easy looking after a child with all Bobby’s disabilities but do I regret missing out on my teenage years looking after him? Not at all.
“Bobby is the best thing to ever happen to me. I’m just so pleased I didn’t give up on him.”