‘I’m fighting to keep my son’s life support on – he squeezed my hand and I won’t quit’

Looking at my son’s cheeky face as he walked into my bedroom, I knew straight away he was up to something.

“Here, Mum, I’ve got you a sweet,” Archie said, smirking. He held up a bag for me to put my hand into but our pet rabbit, Simian, was inside. “Archy!” I said, laughing. “Put the rabbit back before it pees on the carpet.”

He left my room and I was still smiling. His pranks and cheeky personality cracked me up all day, every day.

From the moment he could walk and talk he was bursting with energy and a naughty sense of humour. At 12, Archie is the baby of the family. I also have Tom, 22, and Lauren, 20, who absolutely adore him.

I started taking him to gymnastics when he was just a toddler and he had a natural talent, winning medals aged four. We couldn’t go anywhere without him somersaulting, jumping or doing the splits. He’d jump over posts in shopping centers and back-flip in car parks. My boy’s energy never ran out.

It could get him into trouble at school but, thankfully, he found a wonderfully supportive primary school with a one-to-one teaching assistant, Mrs Minnie, who became his “school mum” and really believed in him, which helped.

She loves her boy’s cheeky antics

Archie has won gymnastics trophies

Once he was settled into a school routine, Archie’s gymnastics went from strength to strength. All my three kids have a hobby that I’ve encouraged to give them discipline and focus. Tom is an MMA fighter and Lauren rides horses – she has two that she looks after in stables.

At home, I have a cabinet full of all their medals, trophies and rosettes. I couldn’t be proud of the kids’ achievements. As Archie got older and stronger, he wanted to try MMA fighting, like his big brother.

He started training every day in the lead-up to his first fight, booked for 24 April this year.

Tom and Lauren would record TikTok montages of his techniques – the speed of his punches and kicks was amazing. We knew he was going to go far.

But on 7 April, just minutes after Archie had been in my room teasing me with the rabbit, I found him unconscious at the top of the stairs.

I’d thought he was quiet, but I wasn’t worried – he’s 12, he doesn’t need me standing over him all the time.

I came out of my room and called him – and that was when I saw the rabbit at the top of the stairs. “Arch?” I called and walked towards him. I thought he was standing on the stairs – but when I got closer he saw he was hanging there.

I started screaming for help, but it was just me and Archie at home. I took the pressure from his neck and ran into the street screaming for help. It was pure adrenaline. As I was screaming and panicking a neighbor came, called an ambulance and took over giving CPR until help arrived.

Archie looked completely normal – his skin was its usual colour, he felt warm to my touch, he could have been asleep. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t just wake up.

Put on a fan

We were rushed straight to Southend University Hospital, where Archie was put on a ventilator to protect his brain, and we were then transported to the more specialist Royal London Hospital.

While sitting at Archie’s bedside, people started messaging me, saying there were online challenges going around for kids to make themselves pass out. Some of these videos show kids how to tie a ligature around their necks. I was sickened.

At first, I thought the cord around Archie’s neck was a freak accident from when he was playing with the rabbit. But now I’m wondering if Archie had been taking part in one of these challenges.

“You can fight this, Archie,” I told him as I held his hand in the hospital. “We don’t quit,” I said through tears.

But the specialists treating Archie told me and Archie’s dad, Paul, that it was “highly likely” he was brain-dead.

Hollie and Archie with Tom and Lauren in 2015

I begged for treatments to help Archie with any swelling on his brain, in case he was getting worse instead of better, but all the hospital could offer was brain-stem testing to determine whether Archie was brain-dead.

Once that was determined, the hospital would want to switch off his life support.

I refused this for five weeks but on Friday 13 May, a High Court judge ruled that it’s in Archie’s “best interests” to conduct these tests. Now I am waiting for the results to see what happens next.

But I am asking for more time. What is the rush – it took me longer to get over the flu.

Archie changes all the time. He has squeezed my fingers with a tight grip. I think that’s his way of letting me know he’s still here and just needs more time. His eyes open slightly.

We don’t know the extent of the damage to his brain. He could wake up a very different boy, but I would rather have some of Archie than none of Archie. I just want to kiss his beautiful little face of him.

Holding on to hope

Now I will continue fighting for as long as possible for us to watch and wait. Every day, my older kids come to visit their brother from him and try to get him to respond, playing his favorite song from him – Lucid Dreams by Juice WRLD – and voice notes from his friends.

His amazing teaching assistant brought him a beautiful poem and a teddy bear made of flowers.

The support we have had is incredible. Our local community in Southend-on-Sea turned the seafront lights purple in Archie’s honor and Chase High School, where Archie started in September, has purple ribbons tied to its front gates.

Where there is life, there’s hope – that’s what I’m holding on to. Until it’s God’s way, I won’t accept he should go. I know of miracles when people have come back from being brain-dead. He may not be the same as he was, but if there’s a possibility he could live a happy life after this, I want to give it to him.

Hollie is staying by Archie’s side in hospital

The barrister representing the Barts Health NHS Trust, which is responsible for Archie’s care, told the judge at our hearing on 4 May that “Archie’s treating team considers it highly likely that he is, in fact, brain-stem dead”.

They say any movements from Archie are reflexes – including him squeezing my hand.

But me and Archie always say to each other, “Quitting is not an option.” I will exhaust every avenue to give him the best fighting chance.

He’s an elite gymnast with huge potential to be a champion MMA fighter. We want to get him back to what he loves doing. We won’t give up on him.

His sister has started an Instagram page, @spreadthepurplewave, where people can follow Archie’s journey. She has reached out for support from people all around the world and we’ve had some amazing messages.

Big celebrity boxers including David Haye and Ricky Hatton have sent us videos of support, which I’ve played to Archie to motivate him. I want him to feel the love and positivity all around him.

We’ve been fundraising, too, in case a treatment option is found abroad. So far, we have more than £18,000 in donations.

There will be more hearings to determine Archie’s future medical care, or whether to turn off his life support, but I pray that he will wake up one day.

I’d give anything to see him back to his same cheeky self, teasing us all and bouncing around.

We know that he needs a miracle – but I’m his mum and I’ll never give up fighting for him to have all the time that he needs to come back to me.

You can follow Archie’s journey on Instagram, @spreadthepurplewave, and donate at gofundme.com/f/just-for-archie

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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