‘I can’t afford a funeral for my terminally-ill son because of the cost of living’

One mum has said she can’t afford a coffin or funeral for her terminally ill son as she struggles with the cost of living crisis.

Donna Brady, 38, from Camden, London, was told when pregnant that her son Romeo “wouldn’t see his first birthday” because of a serious heart condition.

But the youngster defied the odds and survived until four but his mum says she is now struggling to make his life fulfilling as her finances are squeezed by the ongoing crisis, MyLondon reported.

She’s terrified and in constant worry that when the devastating day comes and her son does pass she won’t be able to afford his coffin or funeral.

Donna said: “I was told to prepare for the worst when I was pregnant, so while everyone else was shopping for prams, I was shopping for coffins.

“I’m overjoyed I got many more years with him. But I’m living on my nerves and my anxiety 24 hours a day, because I don’t know if I’m going to wake up and my baby’s gone and how I’m going to cope when he passes.

“I can see the change in him now and I know the time is coming soon. But a coffin is unbelievably expensive and all of the other funeral costs.

“That terrifies me to be honest. And if he passes away tomorrow I wouldn’t want him sitting in a freezer while I scrape together to try and bury him. I just would want him to lay him to rest straight away.”

Whilst there is The Children’s Funeral Fund for England which can pay for some of the costs, Donna said she would struggle to get enough together to claim some of the money back.

She also doesn’t have family to fall back on and is feeling the struggle as she has gone from paying £42 a day for energy to almost £100 a day – a lot of energy uses comes from Romeo’s feeding pump.

She explained: “He throws up quite a lot so the washing machine is constantly going and I need the electricity on all the time as Romeo has a feeding pump that needs to be permanently charged as it is the only way he can get liquid food and fluid into his body when he is unwell.

“Romeo also needs his TV as often this is his only source of comfort, especially after spending a whole year in hospital and following an entire year at home during the pandemic, it is these little things in life that keep him going.

“The cost of travelling to hospital appointments has also risen. We use taxis or Ubers as the risk of infection is too high on public transport but these are now more expensive.”

Romeo was born with Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (TAPVR) which sees oxygen-rich blood return to the wrong side of his heart, mixing with blood with lower oxygen levels and affecting how much oxygen can be pumped around his body.

He also has dextrocardia which means his heart is on the right side of his chest instead of the left.

Donna is a full-time carer for her beloved tot Romeo, meaning she is unable to work so she receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

They are also supported by the charity The Rainbow Trust, which she says has been a “godsend”. The charity helps them do fun activities, like going to the zoo, much to Romeo’s delight given his love for animals, particularly his own cat. Romeo aspires to be a vet and has just started school.

While the charity supports many of the estimated 86,000 children in England with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions, Donna said she is calling on the government to do more to help struggling families as she said the DLA doesn’t go a long way.

Donna is doing her best to give Romeo a stimulating and fulfilling life while feeling like they are on “borrowed” time.

She said they try to do things together like going to the Natural History Museum, but factoring in travel and lunch can be a squeeze. She added: “He loves magazines but they have gone up from £4.50 to £6.99. I have to say to him ‘we can get milk, bread and butter or a magazine’. To say no to a child that hasn’t got long left is really, really difficult.

“He’s never going to finish school or go to college or meet someone and fall in love and go on holidays and have a job and all of that. So that’s why it’s really difficult for me to say no to him.

“Because of his condition I want to give him everything to make life as easy as possible and to create amazing memories but these are truly worrying times.”