How Our Daughter Drove Us To Divorce -
And To Marriage Again

CHILDHOOD sweethearts Stephen and Becky Mussett have told how the strain of bringing up their disabled daughter drove them to divorce. But, in an incredible twist, the couple fell back in love – and married again ! Stephen and Becky’s first marriage was wrecked by the stresses of having to look after Georgia who, they claim, suffered brain damage as a result of negligence by staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Gateshead. With few friends or family to help them, the young couple had to cope with a baby who cried nearly 24 hours a day because of the pain she was suffering.

Becky said: “Georgia has split us up and brought us back together. “We’ve been through hell. It’s been a nightmare – an absolute nightmare. “But I think we have a stronger relationship because of everything we’ve been through.” And the couple are going to need all the strength as they embark on a legal battle to win up to £5 million damages for Georgia, who has a life expectancy of just 31. Georgia, who is now nine, is unable to walk, talk or feed or wash herself.

Together again…Becky, Georgia and Stephen.

Stephen and Becky took their case to a solicitor when Georgia was a baby but their legal aid funding ran out two years ago. Now, another solicitor has managed to secure £10,000 of legal aid, which will pay for a barrister in London to investigate the case. Becky, aged 31, said: “We’ll be discussing the possibility of lodging a claim. We’ve been told that if we were successful we would receive up to £5 million. “This is not about money for us but about the quality of care Georgia will receive. “It would pay for everything Georgia would need for the rest of her life – all the equipment and medical care. “I believe something went wrong in the hospital and something should be done about it." Stephen and Becky, from Washington, near Sunderland, began dating when they were teenagers in the Air Cadets.

Becky left school to work in the Jobcentre, while Stephen worked as engineer, before being made redundant and finding work in a taxi office. Becky fell pregnant when she was 20 but the girl was stillborn. The next year, she fell pregnant again. She said: “When I was 29 to 30 weeks, I went for a scan at the hospital and the radiographers said they thought the baby was too small. “I noticed she wasn’t kicking enough. If the baby isn’t kicking, it’s a sign that something’s wrong. I had to drink coffee to get her to kick.”

Becky claims she tried to tell the nurses there was something wrong but they dismissed her fears as anxiety caused by the loss of her first baby. She begged them to perform a caesarian operation to deliver the child but, she claims, they told her there was nothing to worry about. At 35 weeks – five weeks short of a normal, full-term pregnancy – she had more tests. Becky claims the doctors then realised there were problems and she was admitted for an emergency caesarian.

Doctors originally told them Georgia, who weighed 3lbs 11oz, was healthy, although she had suffered a bleed inside her head. Becky said: “She was crying constantly – 24 hours a day. She was really stiff – just like an ironing board. “Her muscles were so tense. I couldn’t even take her out in the pushchair because she would scream all the time. It was very, very difficult. I was at breaking point. “I had my little girl but it wasn’t the little girl I had always wanted. I know that sounds awful but that’s how I really felt.” Stephen, aged 31, said: “I worked in the taxi office on night-shift. It was hard on Becky. I would have Georgia during the day and let Becky try to get some sleep.” At the age of six months, Georgia was diagnosed as suffering from cerebral palsy.

The condition, which affects one in 500 children, is usually caused by the brain being starved of oxygen in the womb or during birth. While Georgia’s symptoms were relieved by medicine, she still needed 24-hour care. Stephen was forced to give up his job and the couple had to survive off benefits. The stress proved too much for the couple, who had married at Sunderland Register Office just four months after Georgia was born.

They had furious arguments caused by the fact they were both stuck at home having to look after Georgia and unable to afford any holidays or even a night out. When Georgia was one year old, Stephen and Becky split. After yet another row, Becky told Stephen to leave. One year later, they divorced. Becky said: “It was a very hostile divorce. We grew to hate each other."

But both Stephen and Becky were unable to keep hating each other. Becky said: “As time went by, Stephen realised that things weren’t going to change and he had to accept the way Georgia was. “We both calmed down and grew up a lot. We started to get on a lot better. “Then one day, Stephen turned up at the door to collect Georgia. I told him he might as well come in and we sat down. We started talking and I said: “Why don’t we make a go of getting back together again ?”

Becky soon fell pregnant with their son James, who is now aged six. With Stephen’s mum Gina working nightshift in a taxi office and Becky’s dad Liam living 200 miles away in Nottinghamshire, the couple struggled to bring up two children on their own. Then, two years ago, Becky proposed to Stephen. She said: “We were sat at the dining table. Stephen was sorting through the bills and I said: “Do you think we should get married again ? “Stephen said no. “I said: “I think it’s time we did. “I suggested July 29 because it was the day we first met, which was a Saturday. “Stephen said he’d only get married again if that day was a Saturday. I checked the calendar and it was.” Last year, the couple got married – again at Sunderland Register Office. Stephen said: “This has brought us closer together and we’ll be together for the rest of our lives.” • A spokesman for Queen Elizabeth Hospital said: “We sympathise with Georgia’s family and we are sorry to hear they have unresolved concerns. The matter is subject to potential litigation and accordingly we feel that for reasons of confidentiality we are unable to comment.”

Stephen and Becky’s story is just one of a wide range of human interest features Nigel has written for women’s magazines. The photographs of the family were taken by Dave Webb.