Smiley tot Romani Gardner loses brave battle for life
A GRIEVING mother has been left broken-hearted after her son lost his battle for life aged just 19 months old.
Romani Gardner was born with a weak heart and spent much of his short life in hospital.
Every time he had an operation, his mum Libby prepared herself for the worst.
But each time, little Romani, from Hester's Way, defied the odds to pull through, and as he grew older he steadily improved.
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At 19 months, he was beginning to speak and although he could not yet walk or crawl, he was a happy child who knew what he wanted from life.
Then the tot caught a cough. His condition deteriorated and was taken to Bristol Children's Hospital, but never came home.
Speaking for the family, Libby's sister, Rachel Stevens, said "He was such a chatty, happy boy and had a fantastic great big smile. He was talking, and was a wilful child who knew what he wanted.
"He couldn't walk or crawl yet, but he used to shuffle along on his back using his head and feet." Romani died on September 6. "He went in with just a cough and he didn't come back out," Rachel said.
"They had to resuscitate him that night, but he just wasn't strong enough to make it through.
"Libby is still in shock. I don't think it has sunk in yet."
Libby was told Romani had serious heart defects at her 20-week scan and chose to continue with the pregnancy.
He was born on January 13, 2011, weighing 6lb 5oz.
Shortly afterwards, Romani was diagnosed with aortic coarctation, or narrowing of the artery, and hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare defect where the left ventricle of the heart is underdeveloped.
Last year, the home of Libby and Romani in Graham Place was burgled while Libby was in hospital with her son.
At the time, Libby, now 19, said: "I had saved every little penny to take my son on holiday and make our house look nice for when he comes home and it has all been ruined.
"Whoever did this is disgusting. They have taken everything from my son."
No arrests have been made in connection with the burglary.
Romani's funeral will be held on Friday. There will be a private service at 1pm at Cheltenham Crematorium, followed by a burial.
There will be a wake at the Cheltenham Town Football Club at 2.30pm and everyone is welcome to attend to say their goodbyes. Later, the family plan to release Chinese lanterns. Donations and floral tributes should be sent to Midcounties Co-operative Funeralcare in Lansdown Road, Cheltenham. Any money will be donated to Cots for Tots.