A SINGLE mum-of-seven has revealed her 14-year-old son regularly puts in a 19-hour day to care for his siblings, after her husband walked out on the family.
Emma Lowe, 37, has given birth to three kids with Down’s Syndrome – twins Arthur and Alfie, six – and a daughter called Molly, who tragically died when she was five months old.
But life became even more difficult when her husband walked out soon after her youngest Elsie, four, was born – leaving Harry to step up.
Emma, from Preston, Lancs, said: “It was a very daunting prospect, especially with two disabled children.
“But Harry stepped in and became the man of the house. He is absolutely incredible and I couldn’t cope without him.
“Most 14-year-olds are out with their mates, having fun, or lazing around. But Harry never gets a minute to himself.
“He looks out for the twins all the time, just like a parent would. I would just like him to get the credit and the recognition he deserves.”
A former teacher, Emma is also mum to Thomas, 20, who is away at college, and Benjamin, 13.
Her heartache began when her daughter, Molly, was born in March 2011, and diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, a hole in the heart and underdeveloped lungs. She died five months later.
Emma said: “It was heartbreaking and very hard for my older children. We call Molly’s grave her ‘forever bed’ and we visit her all the time.”
The twins were born in July 2012 and Emma was stunned when they, too, were diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome.
She said: “The chances of having three babies with Down’s Syndrome were a million to one.
“But when the midwife held Alfie up, I recognised the features, just like Molly.
“The condition itself didn’t scare me because I knew I could cope.
“But I was scared, after losing Molly, that the same thing might happen again.”
Thankfully, Arthur and Alfie did not have the same medical challenges as Molly, although they were later diagnosed with autism.
They do not speak and are wheelchair-bound.
A year after the twins were born, Emma gave birth to Elsie.
But her husband walked out without warning, leaving Emma wondering how she would cope alone.
She said: “Harry naturally fell into the role of young carer. It wasn’t what I wanted for him and I certainly didn’t push him into it.
“But he loved caring for the boys and he quickly became invaluable. I really couldn’t cope without him now.
“Harry and Alfie in particular have a very special bond. Alfie is completely non-verbal except for one word: ‘Harry’.”
Amazingly, hero Harry is up at 5.30am most days, to bath and dress his brothers.
He then helps feed them, while having his own breakfast and getting ready for school.
Emma said: “By the time he goes to school, he has often been on the go for three hours, watching the twins, keeping them safe, playing with them, and then lifting them onto their school bus when it comes.”
Evenings in the Lowe house are just as hectic, with Harry changing nappies, washing clothes and cooking dinner.
She said: “Harry will change nappies, wash clothes, cook meals. He can cook steak and spaghetti Bolognese.
“He helps put the twins to bed with me and then, late at night, we will reheat our evening meal and eat together.
“It can be midnight by the time our tasks are all finished.
“Even during the night, if the twins wake up crying, he is there with them.
“I try to make sure he gets his sleep but he wants to look after them.
“And when we go out, Harry is on hand to make sure the twins have a good time. He puts them before himself every time.
“They both need wheelchairs for any distances so Harry will push one, I push the other, and Benjamin looks out for Elsie.”
Anxious about the stigma around Down’s Syndrome, Harry is also involved in support groups and charity work.
Emma said: “Harry has even given talks on his brothers. He wants to make people more aware and more accepting.
“People have no idea what life is like for him – and other young carers.
“He adores his brothers but looking after them is demanding and difficult sometimes.
“But I know he wouldn’t change them for the world.”