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24 September 2014
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Christine with her dying son Andrew.

Christine with her dying son Andrew.

My lost boy

Christine Lord, the mother of Andrew, who died of variant CJd, reveals how her son fought the illness with courage and dignity in this personal and moving account of his death and its impact on her family.

A mother's story...

I was asked to write some words about Andrew and words are my profession. They usually fall seamlessly from my fingers to the keyboard.

But how does a mum write about her only son who has died at just 24-years-of-age of vCJd?

Andrew Black

Bright future - Andrew Black as a boy.

From the age of four Andrew told me he wanted to work in television and radio, and he never wavered from that career path.

At 14 he started spending every school holiday and weekend at Talk Radio in London.

He even sneaked up to work at the studios in Oxford Street when he should have been at school.

Andrew, who had been shy and determined as a small boy, had blossomed into a teenager who was holding his own in the fast paced environment of a radio newsroom.

He was offered work alongside some of the best professionals in the business.

Fresh-faced talent

Fresh-faced and young, he was refused entrance to the Café de Paris during an outside broadcast.

It was only when the founder of talkSPORT, Kelvin Mackenzie, intervened that Andrew was allowed to enter the club.

That night Andrew wore his first suit, which never quite fitted and always looked too big.

This is one of a thousand happy and joyful memories I have of Andrew. His light shone so brightly, if only for a while.

Andrew with mother Christine

Looking for answers - Christine Lord.

Producing shows for a long list of celebrities and making countless friends, Andrew's life was increasingly busy and fun.

He worked in Manchester, London and Birmingham, and there was always a new project, programme or show.

He began to branch out into television, working on quiz shows like Test the Nation, as well as working for CBBC, ITV and Sky.

His capacity for work was huge and, because he loved his chosen career so much, it was never a chore.

Successful career lay ahead

Andrew was handsome, violet-eyed, designer-dressed and, like many young men, very fussy about his hair and appearance.

By the aged of 20, he had already worked in the media for six years and this experience and professional maturity had already earned him the title "legend of the desk".

On his 21st birthday Andrew said to me: "When I am head of the BBC I'll buy you a sports car mum".

Although I laughed, I believed my son had a very successful career and life ahead of him.

So when Andrew started to work less, spend more time alone in his room and withdraw from family life, I was concerned.

The headaches, monosyllabic conversations and dramatic weight loss led to many trips to the GP, who diagnosed depression.

Withdrawn and sad...

By March 2007 Andrew could no longer work and he couldn't deal with correspondence or phone calls.

Everything just seemed too much for him.

Andrew was not only withdrawing from me, he seemed to be distancing himself from the world.

Andrew Black and Christine Lord.

Andrew and Christine in happier times.

The deadly disease that had been incubating in his body for many years was developing.

Andrew was not depressed… he was dying.

The year 2007 is a blur of hospitals, tests and invasive procedures.

Lumbar punctures, tonsil biopsy, brain scans, blood tests.

The weeks of uncertainty were followed by the dreadful diagnosis.

Then there were the long months of holding his hand through the days and nights of terror, which is the reality of dying from vCJD.

I put on my most reassuring smile until it became fixed, although it hid a deep sadness.

Breaking my heart

Andrew's debilitating symptoms grew hour by hour, each ticking of the clock producing another disablement, another torture, pain or fear.

When he had to use a plastic drinking beaker for the first time, as he couldn't co-ordinate his hands, Andrew told me: "Mum I will only use this in the house and until I'm better".

I smiled and agreed, but inside my heart was breaking.

Andrew Black

Andrew Black

Andrew was as determined as ever.

He would say: "I must be able to walk", until he couldn't take a single step.

Then he would say: "I must be able to go out to do simple things like watching and hearing the sea", until he was unable to go outside.

And finally: "I must be able to talk", until he could no longer put a word together, or even move the muscles in his face.

Upbeat and unafraid...

I filled our home with his friends, music, activity and noise, pretending to be upbeat and unafraid.

Andrew looked to me for reassurance to allay his fears. He trusted me and I hope I didn't let him down.

Christine and Andrew

A mother's love - Christine and Andrew.

When he woke in the morning, I was the first person he saw. And I was the last person he looked at before he closed his eyes at night.

While Andrew slept, I would sit in a chair next to him reading research, scientific data and the many volumes of the BSE inquiry, looking for answers to my many questions.

This resulted in the Inside Out programme and my campaign for justice for Andrew.

My fury at watching my gentle son die so terribly has increased my tenacity and it drives me forward through the most difficult time of my life.

Distressing fight for life

Andrew had a terrible, noisy and distressing death.

For four days and nights, I held my son as he fought to stay alive.

Although Andrew's brain had been systematically destroyed by vCJD, his 24-year-old body refused to give up.

His heart was strong.

I held him as his body continually shook the iron bed that had become his home.

Despite the morphine, his rattling breaths filled my bedroom. Those last images of my Andrew are burned on my soul and broken heart.

I believe that many people are responsible for my son's avoidable death and that none of them have been held accountable.

Please join me in my campaign for justice for Andy.

last updated: 09/05/2008 at 16:15
created: 02/05/2008

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