'Our little miracle' -- remarkable journey from birth at 24 weeks to 21st birthday for Mansfield's Kieron
Kieron Norton was so tiny when he was born that, according to his mum, he “would have fitted into a pint glass”.
He was given only a 50-50 chance of survival and although he somehow pulled through, he was diagnosed with brain disease and soon developed quadriplegic cerebral palsy,.
But look at Kieron now! Ready to celebrate his 21st birthday next Tuesday and living life to the full as best he can after a remarkable journey of courage and determination.
"He is our little miracle!” beamed mum Sharon, 51, who cares for Kieron with husband Andrew at the family home in Broomhill, Mansfield.
“He is amazing. A caring, loving person, and we are so proud of him.”
Dad agrees. “The key thing is how positive he is about everything,” he said.
"The last 20 years have been an absolute rollercoaster and, even now, there are days where nothing makes sense.
"But Kieron has such a wonderful smile, and he cares more about others than himself. He is so conscientious.”
The incredible story began back in April 2000 when the family lived in Worksop. Sharon’s pregnancy seemed to be going fine but, suddenly, she began to feel unwell and her blood pressure shot sky high.
She was rushed into the former Jessop Hospital for Women in Sheffield, where she had to have an emergency caesarean operation.
Kieron was born at just 24 weeks, emerging with little more than a whimper, and weighed a mere 1lb 5oz (595 grams).
Andrew, 47, who works in the planning department at Mansfield District Council,recalled: “I was so proud to be a dad but, at the same time, I was terrified because the doctors couldn’t guarantee anything and told us it was going to be very hard. Survival was 50-50 at best.
"I looked at him and although he was so small, he was so perfect. Everything was there, but in micro-scale.
"They did regular brain-scans, and he was on medication to inflate his lungs.
"He didn’t open his eyes for three weeks, and his skin was so fragile that they couldn’t put medical stickers on him.
"We couldn’t even hold him for about two months because he was so fragile. At one time, he was very poorly with an infection. That was terrifying and we knew he might not make it.”
Andrew and Sharon were told after three weeks that Kieron had brain damage. He spent four months in the neo-natal unit at Sheffield before being switched to Bassetlaw Hospital in Worksop for a further three months.
Quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which can affect movement, co-ordination, sight and speech, was confirmed when Kieron was ten months old.
The sheer stress of it all gave Andrew a near-breakdown as he had to cope every day with travelling from the family home in Worksop to the hospital in Sheffield and his job in Mansfield.
"It freaked me out and I ended up in hospital myself,” he said. “We thought we were going to lose him.”
Even when Kieron finally returned home, the ordeal wasn’t over because he had to be attached to an oxygen cyiinder in the house until February 2001, and couldn’t go anywhere.
A landmark moment of pride arrived when the Nortons could take their beloved son on a shopping trip to Tesco, where he sat, still very small, in the back of a shopping trolley.
Fast-forward 20 years and Kieron is living proof that overcoming the struggle was well worth it.
Yes, he is reliant on a wheelchair and an app on his iPad that helps him with communication. And yes, he has had to undergo various operations through his life, including one to reconstruct his hips.
"But he has done amazingly well,” said Sharon, who works as a midday supervisor at Leas Park Junior School in Mansfield Woodhouse.
"Kieron is very bright and sociable. Despite everything, he has always been happy.
"He has struggled during lockdown because he has had to shield. But this week, he started back full time at Portland College, where he has day care.
"He also goes for overnight stays at the Holles Street short-breaks home in Worksop several weekends a year, which he enjoys and gives us a breather.”
Kieron’s main passion is sport, particularly football, cricket and rugby league.
He supports MK Dons, which derives from his younger days at a private physio centre in Milton Keynes, and he is even a season-ticket holder.
In cricket, he follows Notts and loves going to their T20 games at Trent Bridge, while Doncaster are his first love in rugby league.
"Everyone knows him at MK Dons, “said Sharon. “They are all so welcoming of him.”
With his mum and dad, Kieron is also a member of Mansfield Baptist Church.
"His faith is so important to him, as it it is to me and Andrew,” said Sharon. “Without it, I don’t think we would have got through everything. Kieron was baptised in 2015.
"Who knows what the future holds? We haven’t set any targets for him. We have always just wanted him to go as far as he can with things.
"All we know at the moment is that Kieron’s 21st birthday is a real reason to celebrate, especially during these difficult times we face with Covid.”
WHEN Kieron celebrated his 18th birthday, his parents handed him the gift of a diary Sharon had kept when he was in special baby care. It included this poignant message from dad Andrew:
"Since those early, sometimes dark and uncertain days, we have seen Kieron grow, both physically and spiritually, and he is an amazing son of whom we are immensely proud.
"He has done things which even we thought may not be possible, and this is a credit to his spirit and determination to succeed.
"The last 18 years have seen many ups and downs, but the consistent thing has been Kieron’s wonderful bright eyes, amazing smile and infectious laugh.
"The journey continues……...”