Family observe lost son's 16th

'I didn't want to give up on him'

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 08:28 14/05/2014
Nathan Booker
FAITH SUTHERLAND/FAIRFAX NZ

BIRTHDAY SADNESS: Angela Middlemiss stands with her sons Gordon Booker, 19, and Leighton Booker, 18, at the unveiling of her son Nathan Booker's headstone.

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Celebrating her son's 16th birthday at his grave site was Palmerston North mother Angela Middlemiss' worst nightmare.

Nathan Booker died aged 15 after he was found submerged in a bath at the Woburn Family Support Centre, run by Idea Services - a subsidiary of IHC New Zealand, in January.

An ambulance was called and he was taken to the Palmerston North Hospital's intensive care unit. He was taken off life support and pronounced dead later that night.

"I wanted to do a party for his 16th, it's a milestone," Middlemiss said. "But with losing him earlier this year I didn't know what to do, so I thought we could use [the headstone unveiling] as a party."

Family, friends and Nathan's former classmates from Awatapu College turned out to the headstone unveiling and birthday party, complete with cake, at Kelvin Grove Cemetery yesterday.

"I couldn't do nothing on his birthday," she said. "I couldn't come to his plot and see no headstone.

"This is the completion of his plot, I needed to do it for him."

After the unveiling, the assembly sang Happy Birthday twice "because that's how he would have liked it", and released red balloons into the sky. Songs Say Something by Christina Aguilera and A Great Big World, and Never Gonna Say Goodbye by Westlife, as well as Amazing Grace and Poi E were played during the ceremony.

"The song, Say Something . . . there are words in it about giving up and not being there," she said. "That night in ICU, I just wanted him to sit up because I didn't want to give up on him, but I had to turn off life support."

Middlemiss said the family had been through some bad situations in the past couple of weeks "with the justice of it all".

"It's a mother's worst nightmare being here today, especially his 16th," she said.

Last month police said they would not be laying criminal charges against anyone at the centre.

Crown agency Worksafe NZ is still completing its investigation.

An IHC spokeswoman said last month that an internal investigation had been completed and an action plan had been put in place.

She said it included further training and reorientation for staff, and that disciplinary action in relation to staff had been completed.

The spokeswoman did not say what the disciplinary action was.

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- Manawatu Standard

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