FEATURE: ‘We called my late son Kai ‘Peter Pan’ – he was never going to grow old’ says brave Hitchin mum and author Vikki Hammond

PUBLISHED: 09:05 19 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:41 19 December 2018

The inspirational Vikki Hammond with her late son, Kai

The inspirational Vikki Hammond with her late son, Kai

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Layth Yousif met inspirational Hitchin mother and author Vikki Hammond after the launch of her third book in honour of her late son Kai. All funds raised will go to SUDEP Action dedicated to exploring sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.

Vikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOOVikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOO

Vikki Hammond stirs her coffee. She is calm and composed. Dignified. Her brown eyes are full of sadness. But they contain more than grief.

There is a pride when she talks about her late son. And love.

For when mum Vikki recalls him there is always love.

“I have been blessed by having my son Kai,” she tells me.

“We called him Peter Pan. He was never going to grow old because in his mind he was always going to be a baby.

“He died a day before his 16th birthday - he was the real life Peter Pan.

“He was here for a short time to love. And to teach people about love.”

Hitchin mother of five Vikki has written her third book about her beloved son late Kai, called ‘And Then The Snow Fell’.

Vikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOOVikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOO

The book has been her way of coping with the loss. The original idea came from a harrowing diary she penned while caring for her brain-damaged eldest child that led to Whenever I Fall, published in 2015, before releasing After The Fall as a follow-up.

Speaking to the Comet brave Vikki said: “Kai was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis complex at four months. He had also epilepsy, autism, development delay - but he never let anything stop him.

“He was always happy, very loving. He loved food, loved baths and swimming - and just getting up to mischief. He was a really happy, lovely boy and he loved life.

“Everything he went through he never cried, never complained. He just got on with it.”

As a mother in pregnancy, Vikki’s instincts told her something was wrong. She had a scan which highlighted tumours in Kai’s heart.

Vikki explained: “My husband Scott and I were devastated. I was in denial because I was young. I was 19 when I had Kai. Scott and me just thought this happens to other people, it doesn’t happen to us.

“He should’ve been diagnosed at birth but it was missed. He was diagnosed at four months old after he kept having seizures.

“At the time I didn’t know they were seizures, he’d raise his arms and grimace, but it wasn’t diagnosed.

Vikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOOVikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOO

“Eventually I grabbed the doctor while Kai was having one, and forced him to study him. He immediately agreed it was a seizure and rushed him to Addenbrookes.

“I didn’t tell many people for a year because I didn’t like sympathy.

“It wasn’t that I was embarrassed - I didn’t want sympathy because to me he was still Kai.”

During his life Kai had suffered uncomplainingly through three brain operations. He also fought sepsis, sepsis shock, and cardiac arrest.

The Hammonds saw specialists at a number of different hospitals including Great Ormond Street. At one point Kai was having six different lengthy seizures a day. The worst ones would see him smash his head onto the floor, bite his tongue, involuntarily hit his face on his wheelchair.

He also lost the power of speech. From the age of two he could say about 12 words. His first word was mum.

So was his last.

Vikki adds with a mother’s pride: “He never lost ‘mum’. He did lose a lot of speech. His co-ordination was all over the place. ‘Bambi legs’ we used to call him because he was so shaky and wobbly. Some days he couldn’t walk at all.”

Vikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOOVikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOO

Vikki admits in a rare smile her partner Scott has been, and remains, a ‘rock’. They’ve been together for 22 years, first going out as lovestruck youngsters from Norton and Highfield schools.

They have four surviving children, Bailey, 12, Honey-Mae, 10, Daisy, seven and Lola four.

The children have been brave beyond compare. They have also been helpful.

Vikki adds: “It was hard to see a two-year-old know how to deal with a seizure. It was unfair because Kai would have a seizure and they’d get everything out the way, all the toys - they’d know to get a blanket because he’d get cold.

“If I was out of the room they’d scream ‘Mum! Mum!’ and I’d come down and they’d already put a blanket over him.

“He was so gentle and patient. He’d let them brush his hair. He used to let them do anything to him and he wouldn’t care. He always used to cuddle them.

“He did annoy them. He’d stand in front of the telly and block it and shout over their music so they couldn’t hear it.

“He had his way of staying in charge without his words.”

Vikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOOVikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOO

In the weeks leading up to his death in January of this year Kai’s seizures got progressively worse. They increased in numbers, lasted longer and were far more violent. He’d go completely blue and be unconscious for hours.

The Hammonds called the doctor out in the lead-up to last Christmas. Kai had a heavy cold and was given a course of antibiotics.

He was so ill he even went off eating chips, his favourite food.

He rallied to manage a few mouthfuls of Christmas dinner but Vikki knew all was not well.

She adds: “On Boxing Day he was really poorly. He just didn’t eat.

“I was so scared of his weight dropping again after I’d spent a year and a half building him back up

“His seizures would last at least a minute but it felt like forever and there was nothing you could do.”

“We were told a few times ‘This is touch and go. You might want to turn the life support off?’

Vikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOOVikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOO

“‘If he dies, I die’ I told them.

“I couldn’t imagine life without him so I refused. The staff at the Lister were amazing. Then he got transferred to Great Ormond Street by ambulance. He rallied over the holidays and went home.

“On the night before he died he said ‘mum’ to me.”

Vikki put Kai to bed as normal and he was content, singing his own ‘babble’ as she phrased it – with the word ‘mum’ predominant.

His loving mother chided him gently, instructing him to go to sleep.

Kai enjoyed being told off. He thought it was the funniest thing in the world. The Hammonds had countless videos of him laughing hysterically after being lightly admonished.

As Vikki said you could never tell Kai off properly because he was always so angelic looking.

The next morning their four other children woke as normal. They had spent the previous day wrapping presents for Kai’s 16th birthday and were planning a birthday meal at Frankie and Bennies. The cake had been ordered.

Vikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOOVikki Hammond speaks to Layth Yousif about her third book about her son Kai which is raising money for SUDEP ACTION. Picture: DANNY LOO

Vikki recalls: “I left him until 8am and thought ‘Right he’s got to get up now’ so I went in to get him up. He was face down in his pillow. He used to sleep like a baby, like a bunny with his legs in the air and his face to his chin.

“I noticed his ear was blue. I didn’t take it at the time. I stared at him. Then it kicked in.

“I put my arms under his and yanked him up. As I did he gasped and I thought ‘Thank god I’ve got to him’. I dragged him out the bed and laid him on the floor to give him CPR. It was awful. Horrendous. He was completely blue.

“They told me later it wasn’t his last breath, it was trapped air.

“I tried to give him CPR but his tongue was hanging out, he’d bitten it. There was blood round his mouth.

“It was dreadful. Scott came in and collapsed on the floor screaming. Our kids fell screaming on the floor.

“Then my brain kicked in and I shouted: ‘Get them out, get them out!’ so he quickly got dressed and ran next door. They’d heard us screaming and were halfway round anyway and they took the children.

“Losing Kai was dreadful.” Vikki looks into space, before adding: “I have so much time on my hands now.”

After the funeral Vikki admits there were times when she wanted to give in. To give up. But her mother’s instinct to care for her other children was always there. As was the love of her ‘rock’ Scott.

She decided to return to writing. She freely admits she felt like hurling the laptop at the wall, such was the frustration from recounting the pain of losing Kai.

But she continued. She had a new cause. Raising money and awareness for SUDEP.

Vikki being Vikki would never let anyone down. So despite the pain she finished the book.

She adds: “For weeks and months after losing Kai anytime I was around people I would just rock and scream. I couldn’t talk. I’d just rock and scream. That was all I did.

“Then I decided to write again.”

Vikki looks into her empty coffee cup as our interview draws to an end.

She is calm and composed. Dignified. Her brown eyes are full of sadness. But they contain more than grief. There is a pride when she talks about her late son. And love.

For when mum Vikki recalls Kai there is always love.

“I have been blessed by having my son Kai.

“We called him Peter Pan. He was never going to grow old because in his mind he was always going to be a baby.

“He died a day before his 16th birthday - he was the real life Peter Pan.

“He was here for a short time to love. And to teach people about love.”

All funds raised from Vikki’s books will go SUDEP Action.

SUDEP Action is dedicated to raising awareness of epilepsy risks and tackling epilepsy deaths including Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. We are the only UK charity specialised in supporting and involving people bereaved by epilepsy.

Their services include bereavement support, counselling, help with understanding the inquest process and in collaboration with UK research teams, the involvement of bereaved families and professionals in research through the Epilepsy Deaths Register. If you have been affected by an epilepsy death, please contact their support team on 01235 772852 or visit their website for more.

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