I have always been lucky enough to have supportive siblings, and thanks to my parents having siblings some of my cousins are my best friends. As I got older being an auntie became a role I enjoyed, and I can honestly say I treat my nieces and nephews like my own. So, it was not surprising that after having Ricardo, we knew he wouldn’t be an only child. I wanted not only him, but his children to experience the family ties I have.
Ricardo was 3 years old when Tiffany was born. Whilst her complex medical conditions meant we knew time with her would be short, I wanted to ensure we made the most of the time we had. But I still grieved for all the things I would never do with her in the typical way like going shopping together, for lunch or picking her prom dress. But it was also so much deeper than that, like knowing Ricardo and Tiffany wouldn’t be able to go to school together, she wouldn’t turn him into an uncle, nor would I have to referee their arguments. But I was wrong!
From the moment Ricardo met Tiffany on the neonatal ward he loved her.Stacey, Tiffany's mum
When his cousins came to visit, he would hide his favourite Lego pieces in her hand so she could keep them safe for him. He enjoyed reading to her and would convince the family that she loved the same programmes as him. Their bond was stronger than I ever imagined it would be.
It wasn’t always easy. During a short time when we did have Tiffany at home Ricardo really struggled. Tiffany would still get admitted to our local paediatric ward frequently and to the assessment unit two or three times a week with feed intolerance, suspected seizures, hypothermia and breathing difficulties. This meant Ricardo would be unsure whether I would be at home or not and he had a lot of anxiety about Tiffany’s condition.
When Tiffany and I were living on the children’s ward Ricardo lived with my parents. He would come to the hospital weekends, during school holidays and video called every night. I am extremely grateful that he never felt jealous of the amount of time of I was away from him. He always accepted the hospital was the safest place for Tiffany. It wouldn’t stop him thinking of lots of fun things for us to do together.
Ricardo enjoyed every celebration because he knew I would always plan parties and decorate the room. This has been a little hard to manage since Tiffany sadly passed away in September 2020 at the age of three, Ricardo was six. He doesn’t remember a life without Tiffany. He has become her voice. Naturally he still has the same enthusiasm for celebrations and will say things like ‘but it’s what me and Tiffany want’. It’s been hard to find the energy to plan things like I used to and I’m grateful that family have taken over that role a little.
Ricardo’s and Tiffany’s bond continues to grow. Ricardo has a view of life that I can only admire, he makes me so proud. He believes Tiffany is an angel that is with him at all times and calls her Angel Tiffany. In many ways she is a bigger part of his life now as he believes he can talk to her all the time and she can hear him, unlike at the hospital when he had to call or visit. If he gets asked if he has any brothers or sisters, he always says the same ‘Yes, but she lives in Heaven’.
He helps me supply toiletry and craft sets to the ward that was our home on dates that are important to us from her birthday to Christmas and Halloween. He was perfect for her, and she was perfect for him. A sibling bond that will never be broken.