‘Every day it just gets harder and harder’ – parents of Hartlepool toddler Jacob Jenkins

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The heartbroken parents of a Hartlepool toddler who choked to death on a grape have told how life will never be the same without their “precious” baby boy.

Abigail Wilson and David Jenkins were left devastated when their beloved two-year-old son Jacob lost his fight for life on October 14, having been on a life support machine in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Hospital after choking on the grape in the town’s Pizza Hut five days earlier.

Abigail Wilson mother of Jacob Jenkins Picture by FRANK REID

Abigail Wilson mother of Jacob Jenkins Picture by FRANK REID

The couple are still trying to come to terms with his death and say they are finding it hard to live in their Fens home which was once filled with their little boy’s laughter.

As they pack up their belongings ready to move, they have spoken of how they have been left overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from the people of Hartlepool and beyond, how life will never be the same without their “little superhero” and how they are determined to make Jacob proud.

Sitting on the sofa as a candle for Jacob burned on the mantlepiece, Abigail, 23, told the Mail: “Every day it just gets harder and harder. I’m finding myself crying more and for longer periods. It is so hard to be in the house without him.

“When Jacob was brought home the night before his funeral, they opened the coffin for me to be able to give him a kiss one more time.

Jacob Jenkins

Jacob Jenkins

“Knowing I’ll never be able to hear him laugh, or be able to hold him close again and give him a kiss – that is such a hard thing to come to terms with.”

Recalling the fateful day, Abigail told how she and Jacob had travelled to Nottingham to met David, 31, who works as an asbestos remover.

After travelling back to Hartlepool, they decided to visit the town’s Pizza Hut – a choice made by Jacob – following a visit to David’s mum’s home.

It was the day before Abigail had been due to travel to York with her friends to celebrate her 23rd birthday.

Abigail, who hopes to become a social worker one day, said: “All of a sudden he started choking, David started to perform first aid on him, then the first aider from Pizza Hut came running over.

“I can remember being under Jacob patting his stomach saying “come on cough for mammy, please cough for mammy” – I was willing him so hard to cough.

“David had ran to get help from the cinema and then the ambulance came. Jacob went in the ambulance and we followed behind in the car.

“We knew his heart had stopped and as we travelled to the hospital we just didn’t know what to expect when we got there.

“When we arrived we got asked to go in a room, but David didn’t want to go in. But they told us they had managed to get his heart started again.”

Jacob was transferred from James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough to Newcastle’s RVI, where he remained on a life-support machine while his parents kept a bedside vigil.

However, on the morning of October 14, they were given the devastating news Jacob would not pull through after scans showed swelling on his brain was not subsiding.

It was then they had to make the heartbreaking decision to turn off his life support machine.

The couple chose 7pm that night when they knew people would have their baby boy in their thoughts as a balloon release had been organised by the people of Hartlepool.

Abigail said: “It wasn’t a case of we were giving up on Jacob – there was just nothing more we could do. It was such a hard decision for us both.

“We decided on 7pm as we knew people would have him in their thoughts and that gave us a little bit of comfort knowing that – we hope people understand.”

Donating Jacob’s organs was something which his family had considered. However, due to the time it would take to carry out the tests, letting him pass away peacefully in his sleep at 7pm would no longer be an option.

“When we were told, due to the tests that would be carried out, it would be after 7pm, it was such a hard decision to make but it was important to us for it to happen when he was in people’s thoughts,” said Abigail.

The couple held him in their arms as they both said goodbye to the little boy who had brought so much joy into their lives, before they went outside to release their own balloons within the hospital grounds in their own private tribute to Jacob.

Abigail added: “It was like an angel had been watching over us by giving us those few extra precious days with him. He could have died suddenly, but he didn’t and we are so thankful for those days we were able to spend with him and to have been given the opportunity to say our goodbyes.”

Looking back to the day their baby boy was born, David said: “I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. I was so excited.

“I was wanting to cut the umbilical cord, but so did Abigail’s auntie who was in there with us, so there was a little bit of a playful argument between us both.

“But in the end neither of us got to do it, as there were complications with Jacob, so the nurse cut it instead.”

Jacob spent 12 days in hospital after being born after swallowing meconium aspiration – where a newborn inhales a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid.

Abigail added: “Jacob wasn’t planned but he has given us the best years of our life. We just miss him so much.”

The couple had recently re-decorated Jacob’s room and the youngster, who had a new-found love of Spider-Man and Iron Man, had been left “excited” by the new bed he owned.

Abigail said: “We had just done his bedroom as he was into Marvel comics – he loved his bed as it was one where he had to climb up to get in it.

“He used to love playing all the superheroes – he was really becoming his own little character.”