Benik Afobe opens up on kissing goodbye to beloved daughter, 2, and feels for families robbed of chance by coronavirus – The Sun
BENIK AFOBE said a prayer and kissed his beloved two-year-old daughter Amora goodbye.
The on-loan Bristol City striker and his wife Lois had just made the most heart-breaking decision any parent could make.
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They had given doctors at the Royal Stoke University Hospital permission to turn off the life support machine that was keeping their precious little girl alive.
Amora was born with the rare kidney condition nephrotic syndrome and was taken to hospital in November vomiting and crying in pain.
Her condition worsened and breathing stopped, so she had to be put on a ventilator.
An MRI scan revealed permanent brain damage and medics told the couple there was nothing they could do.
Afobe, 27, said: “It was sickening. It was our baby girl, first child, she hadn’t had the chance to live a life.
“Every member of our family was there when the plug was pulled. We all said a prayer and our last words to her.
“I kissed her. It’s something I’ll never forget.
“Talking about it now makes me tearful but she went surrounded by love and with the best people around her.”
The days, weeks and months that followed were difficult and at times took the Afobes to breaking point.
He said: “The worse thing for any parent is to see their child go through something like that.
“My mum said she wished she could have swapped places with her as Amora hadn’t had the chance to live a life like she has.
“Everyone was heartbroken but Lois and I felt we had to be positive.
“At times we had to blag it so everyone didn’t get down as well. We took all the burden.
“Sometimes the two of us would go into a room and cry alone for hours.
“We were broken to the point that we didn’t want to see our other daughter (20-month-old Alba) for a few days because we didn’t want her surrounded by grief.
“It was important to pull ourselves together for her sake and fill the surroundings with positivity.”
The family received an outpouring of love, sympathy and support from across the footballing community.
And Afobe, currently at the Robins on a season-long loan from Stoke, said that helped them through the darkest of times.
He said: “I can’t thank the football world and my family and friends enough for the strength they gave us.
“I never thought Benik and Lois Afobe would have been that important to people to get that outpouring of love.”
It had already been the most trying time of Afobe’s life.
He dropped out of the Premier League to join Stoke from Bournemouth.
But he then had an underwhelming season in a team that struggled, despite being widely tipped as favourites for promotion.
After a great start to this season — scoring three goals in five games — Afobe was then ruled out for the rest of the campaign with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, picked up in a training session in September.
Then came his daughter’s tragic passing and now coronavirus.
Afobe can relate to every person who has lost a loved one during this pandemic.
And he feels great sadness that families are often not able to give those who died the send-off they deserved, due to funerals being capped to just ten mourners.
He said: “So many people are suffering like we were.
“This is the 21st century’s version of the plague.
“No one could have predicted this happening in our lifetimes with all the vaccinations and advances in medical science, as well as the healthier way we live nowadays.
“How awful it must be to lose a loved one and only be allowed ten people at the funeral.
“One thing I’m glad about is Amora chose her time to go and more than 1,000 people came to show their respect and love.
So many people are suffering like we were. This is the 21st century’s version of the plague… How awful it must be to lose a loved one and only be allowed ten people at the funeral.
“Had she still been with us, Amora would’ve been vulnerable to this virus and, had she caught it, I’d never have forgiven myself.
“I’d have blamed the world had she gone in those circumstances.
“I don’t mean that disrespectfully because thousands are passing due to this awful coronavirus.
“For me, it just makes me think she was special. It gets me to a point of satisfaction over the way she went.”
Afobe, incredibly, has got back to full fitness several months ahead of schedule after working with Arsenal’s former medical chief Colin Lewin.
And if the season does restart, he is good to go after throwing himself at a recovery programme.
He said: “I came together with Colin in December because I wasn’t ready to go back into football and mingle with my team-mates and coaches.
“I still wanted to do my rehab but didn’t want to bring negativity into the training ground.
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“They’d have understood if I was quiet and sad, of course, but I didn’t want to affect their mood.
“Training with Colin for three months allowed me to do my rehab but, at the same time, still be able to talk to a friend.
“He’s one of the most positive guys I know and since day one working with him I’ve never felt down, never skipped a day or even an exercise. I can’t thank him enough.”
Football, says Afobe, should not be on anyone’s mind at the moment, with health and well-being the top priority.
But, once the sport does get up and running again, the striker will be raring to go.
He said: “I’d give up football to get our little girl back.
“But, at the same time, I know my daughter in heaven will be willing me on to do well because she loves her daddy.
“I’ll be giving everything for her, my family and all my wonderful friends.
“I’m already dreaming of scoring Bristol City’s winner in the play-off final.”
- Benik Afobe’s wife Lois is working with the Nephrotic Syndrome Trust to raise funds and awareness for research into the condition. For more info, go to https://nstrust.co.uk
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