'Luey’s last breath I can still hear now. It was more like a sigh of relief. He must have known he wasn't coming back' Billy Sharp's wife reveals heartbreak of losing baby two days after he was born
13:15 GMT, 17 August 2012
The girlfriend of Premier League footballer Billy Sharp today spoke of their heartache at losing their first child just two days after he was born.
Grieving Jade Fair – partner of Southampton striker Sharp – gave birth to little Luey six weeks early.
Doctors immediately told the couple the devastating news that he was seriously ill and would not survive.
Feeling Blue: Billy Sharp and girlfriend Jade sit at their home in Southampton wearing blue bands for the Luey Jacob Sharp Foundation
The baby was born with gastroschisis – a defect of the abdominal wall which causes a baby’s bowel to grow outside its body.
Now Billy and Jade, 26, have launched the Luey Jacob Sharp Foundation in memory of their son and in hope of preventing future gastroschisis deaths.
Northerner Sharp, also 26, will face champions Manchester City when he takes to the field for the first game of the season on Sunday.
He scored nine goals in 15 appearances for Saints last year, helping them win the league and with it promotion to the top flight of English football.
However, Sharp was playing for rivals Doncaster Rovers when Luey was born last October.
In a show of remarkable strength, the child managed to fight on for two days before passing away on October 29.
Just days later, the distraught father returned to play for his club and paid tribute to his son after scoring his team’s only goal against Middlesbrough.
He lifted his shirt to reveal: 'That’s for you, son.'
Tribute: Sharp wore a T-shirt dedicating his goal against Middlesbrough to Luey
Speaking at their home in Southampton, Hants, Jade today said: 'I clearly remember being at my 12-week scan on my own.
'Billy was getting physio for an injury he’d picked up when I first heard the word gastroschisis.
'I’d known something was wrong as I’d been in there for about 40 minutes and it was deathly silent.
'They told me and then I was given a diagram and that was it – deal with it.
'I was told they could deal with it once the baby was here.'
Jade had regular scans as her due date crept nearer and she became quite ill but tried not to worry.
She said: 'I had pains and just knew something was wrong.
'I’d been back and forth but they didn’t really know what was wrong and kept sending me away.
'Eventually when my waters broke I went into hospital where they were monitoring Luey and his little heart rate was dipping so they induced me and along he came.
'But as soon as he came out I knew something was wrong.'
In memory: In the Premier League next season, Sharp will continue to wear his son's initials on his boots
Unlike most mothers, who get to spend cherished time with the baby they have been carrying for nine months, Luey was immediately whisked away for surgery.
Jade added: 'The surgery takes about three hours so we had got our heads around the fact we wouldn’t be able to spend time with him straight away.
'We also had to accept he would be in an incubator for up to three months.
'But within 45 minutes of taking him away from us they brought him back and said they were sorry, there was nothing more they could do.'
Recalling the moment they both next laid eyes on Luey, Jade said: 'He looked perfect, he looked well and wasn’t even crying.
'There was just a tiny stitch where he had been sewn up.
Better together: Billy and Jade have both needed the support of the other to get through the pain
'But in the intensive care unit they started taking his drips and his heart monitor off and told us Luey probably wouldn’t make it through the night.'
Having already been awake for the best part of three days, it was further anguish for the couple who wanted to be by their son’s side for the very short time he was alive.
The next day Jade discharged herself from hospital and with Billy they took Luey to a nearby hospice.
She continued: 'It was the best thing we could have done.
'It wasn’t clinical like a hospital, it was about making life as comfortable as possible and managing his pain.
'Around 50 visitors came to meet him in the two days he was with us but by the time people were leaving you could see in him that he was tired.
'His heart had stopped seven times but he kept fighting, the nurses couldn’t believe it.
'He was in pain, his little lungs had failed and he was leaking black stuff from his nose.
'Luey’s last breath I can still hear now, when I go to bed every night.
'It was more like a sigh of relief. He must have known he wasn’t coming back.'
In the days that followed, while funeral arrangements were made, Jade and Billy were able to continue to return to the hospice to visit their baby boy.
The hardest part came after the funeral when they were never to return to see him.
But as they came to terms with their loss, the couple became determined that something good will come from something so terrible.
On January 1 this year, Luey’s charity was launched and to date it has raised 25,000.
Sharp was later subjected to sick abuse from an internet troll who wrote on Twitter: 'Glad your son died and hope your legs get broken'.
The message – believed to be from a disgruntled Doncaster Rovers fan – also wrote: 'Billy where’s your son Billy, Billy, where’s your son'
Sharp responded to his tormentor by Tweeting: 'Shallow little boy hope ur proud of urself.'
The couple are already a quarter of the way to the 100,000 they have vowed to raise by the end of the first year.
Jade said: 'We are looking to put leaflets in hospitals and introduce a telephone support service to help mums who are carrying a gastroschisis baby.
'If we can make some good for another family who have to go through what we did then we know we have done the best by Luey.'
GASTROSCHISIS – THE FACTS
Gastroschisis is diagnosed as early as a 12-week scan with expectant parents told there is a 95 per cent survival rate.
However, figures have shown that cases of gastroschisis are sharply on the rise.
In the past ten years alone numbers
have shot up, from 200 babies affected nationwide in the early part of
2000, to an astonishing 1,300 now.
There are known clusters of the condition in Southampton, Wales, Kent and Yorkshire.
Jade and Billy are keen to stress it’s not just about raising money – but the profile of the charity too.
Jade said: “We need help to raise awareness, both of the charity and of course the condition.
'My focus now is running the LJS Foundation as a fulltime job, with an aim of one day knocking on the door of Number 10, saying: ‘These are the facts and figures, why is enough not being done to deal with it properly'
'I fear gastroschisis, if it continues to increase at the rate it has, will become as common as cancer and we need to find the cause.'
Money raised in Luey’s memory is already being put to good use.
Jade and Billy joined up with a leading charity to fund a grant of more than 100,000 for research into gastroschisis.
The couple have teamed up with Newlife Foundation, the leading UK children’s disability charity, to supply the money which will be used to look into the incidence and treatment of the condition – and ultimately the prevention.
Stephen Morgan, from Newlife, said: 'In recent years gastroschisis has gone from having a 90 per cent morbidity rate to seeing closer to 95 per cent of babies surviving the condition long-term.
'Of course, we need to continue to support research to ensure 100 per cent of those babies survive, but also to look into the potential causes and treatment to work towards eliminating it entirely.'