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Wednesday 25 April 2018

'It's like if I put his toys away, then I am putting him away' - mother of tragic Kayden Fleck (5) reveals family's struggle six weeks on

Leanne Fleck with Darrel and children Amelia and Jayden
Leanne Fleck with Darrel and children Amelia and Jayden

Lisa Smyth

It is six weeks since five-year-old Kayden Fleck drowned in the swollen waters of the River Braid.

His favourite teddy bear sits on the settee, his toys lie on the living room floor and a DVD of Kayden when he was a baby plays in the background of the family home in Cullybackey, Co Antrim.

"It's like if I put everything away then I am putting him away and I could never do that," said his devastated mum, Leanne.

"He was my sunshine, there was just something so special about him, he was so unique in his own wee way and I know my life is never going to be the same again."

Kayden died after he and his identical twin brother Jayden went to play on the riverbank near the Ecos Centre in Ballymena on February 10.

The pair had managed to slip away from their parents, Leanne and Darrel, both 35, as they visited their former home in the nearby Ballykeel estate to clean and remove old furnishings.

The emergency services were on the scene within minutes of the couple realising Kayden was in the water.

"A policeman jumped into the river where Jayden said he had gone in, but he had to come straight back out as it was so cold and the current was so strong," continued Leanne.

"He told me Kayden wasn't there, and from that moment my world just fell apart.

"When they found him they told us he had been airlifted to the Royal and they took us up to Belfast in a police car but I knew, call it mother's instinct, something inside me just knew we had lost him.

"I didn't want to believe it but I knew I wasn't going to see him again in the way I had last seen him.

"When we got to the hospital a doctor took us to resus and I put my hand on his leg and said: 'Come on sweetheart, mummy is here', but I knew there was no life in him.

"They said we could stay but I just couldn't stand there and hear them say that time was up.

"The doctor came in to me in the relatives' room and he didn't even need to say the words, it was a nightmare."

And the devastation has continued for the whole family.

Jayden, who was with his brother when he fell into the river and has told his parents he tried in vain to pull him to safety, has been traumatised beyond imagination.

"He just stands squealing at the top of his voice now," said Leanne.

"We're going to take him to counselling because, although we have lost our son, he has lost his twin brother and you just have no idea what is going through his wee head."

Meanwhile, his four-year-old sister is bewildered by her brother's sudden disappearance.

"Amelia was very close to Kayden, sometimes you would have thought they were the twins," continued Leanne.

"She says a prayer every night and blows him a kiss, she says she misses him and wishes he could come back from heaven.

"We had to sit Jayden and Amelia down and tell them what happened, although Jayden saw it all.

"We asked them if they wanted to see their brother one last time before he was laid to rest and they said they did, they gave him a kiss and everything."

The tragic loss of Kayden at such a young age is even more cruel given the ill health he endured throughout his short life.

The boys were born by caesarean section on August 22, 2012, and Darrel proposed to Leanne as she recovered from the surgery.

However, their joy was short-lived when, within a matter of hours, Kayden was diagnosed with hypoplastic right heart syndrome - a potentially deadly congenital defect where the right side of the heart does not form properly.

He was taken by air ambulance to Birmingham Children's Hospital where he was rushed to theatre for life-saving open heart surgery at just a few days old.

It was the first of 15 operations he would go through in his life.

Leanne said: "He had his last surgery last year and they hoped that would be the last one for another 10 years.

"Kayden was always so brave with everything he went through and I'll always remember him for that. He didn't walk until he was two, but then they told us he would never walk, they said he would never eat normal food but he proved everyone wrong.

"If we had lost Kayden during the heart surgeries I would have been devastated and heartbroken, the feelings would have been the same, but I would have had a reason.

"I never let the boys out of my sight before and I keep going over and over it all and I have to live with the guilt for the rest of my life."

Leanne is determined that no other family should ever endure the same suffering. She is calling upon the council to install fencing and gates between Ballykeel estate and the Ecos Centre.

"I want them to make it more difficult for kids to get from the estate down to the river.

"I know it's never going to bring Kayden back but I could never forgive myself if I didn't say anything and this happened to another family," she said.

Belfast Telegraph

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