Mother's anguish at losing her son

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 12:00 24/01/2014
Nathan Booker
DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ
TRAGIC DEATH: In a photo taken last year, Nathan Booker, then 14, checked out interactive peg books donated to the special needs unit of Awatapu College.

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The mother of a teenager with cerebral palsy who drowned at a respite facility has spoken out about the anguish of losing her happy, cheeky son.

Nathan Booker, 15, died in Palmerston North Hospital after his mother Angela Middlemiss agreed to turn off life support on January 10.

The very high-needs teenager had been in respite care at the Woburn Family Support Centre, run by Idea Services in Palmerston North when he drowned in a bathtub.

"He always smiled, he had his grumpy days but that's every teenager," Ms Middlemiss said. "He loved music - Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star was his favourite song - people talking to him and singing."

Ms Middlemiss said the decision to turn off life support was the hardest thing she had ever done.

"When I turned it off I couldn't stay in the room but my friends did and I couldn't be more thankful," she said. "When I was asked to make the decision I was crying, I couldn't breathe and it felt like a knife was in my heart.

"Even though I wanted to say no, my mind wanted to say yes because I knew it had to be done."

A funeral was held for Nathan last week in Palmerston North, with more than 100 red balloons, a fire truck and his family and friends driving a convoy.

"With disability, it is hard work but he made it worth it because he was amazing," she said. "He just made you realise that what you stressed about in life was nothing, because he was always happy."

Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Sheridan, officer in charge of the Manawatu CIB, said the investigation was ongoing.

"We are continuing to work with the young man's family and the respite care facility. Once an outcome has been reached we will discuss our findings with the family and the coroner," he said.

IHC New Zealand, which owns Idea Services, said earlier this month an internal investigation was also being undertaken.

Ms Middlemiss is still awaiting the outcome of investigations by police and the Woburn Family Support Centre "but I still don't know anything about that night".

"I was told to go to the hospital because there was a serious accident," she said. "The doctor told me he had drowned, was unconscious and he didn't know if he was going to make it through the night, and it down-spiralled from there."

Ms Middlemiss said she was taking life day by day but was thankful for the support of family, friends and strangers.

"One thing people need to know is that Woburn was his respite home, he loved it and he went there for five years," she said. "To me respite is amazing help . . . Nathan did love that place.

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"The hardest part for me is knowing he passed away drowning and knowing I don't get to see my son again."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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