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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Cumbrian teenager cares for mum and dad at different addresses

John Stoker isn’t just the man of one house – but two.

John Stoker photo
John Stoker

The 15-year-old knows better than most how life as a young carer is no walk in the park.

Both of his parents are stricken down with conditions which means that he has had to step up to the plate, something he has been doing so long he can’t remember when he started.

Mum Helen has multiple sclerosis and is bipolar while dad Bob is registered blind, has angina and diabetes.

Helen and Bob also live apart, but nearby, which means that John, from Whitehaven, has to dash across to both houses to look after his parents.

John’s average day sees him doing some basic housework, cooking, pushing his mum around the supermarket and making sure that both parents take their medication and get a wash.

“I have just grown up doing it,” said John.

“My mum didn’t get diagnosed with MS until a few years ago but has always found walking difficult. It’s relatively easy as they live nearby but sometimes it is hard to balance making sure both of them are ok.”

The remarkable care that John gives his parents goes above and beyond the roll call of most teenagers.

He’s telling his story as the News & Star highlights the sacrifice young carers in Cumbria make as part of our Give Them A Break campaign, where we’re asking you to help give some of them a well-deserved treat.

Not only does John, a pupil of Whitehaven Academy, have to be the man of the house and generally care for his parents, he must also act as his diabetic father’s dietician to make sure he eats the correct food for his condition.

“Sometimes it does get hard. My dad can’t do stuff that regular dads can do,” he said.

“Sometimes he won’t go out so I need to make sure he has got something to do.

“I also have to make sure he eats the right stuff and have had to phone ambulances in the past as well.”

All of his home duties come at the expense of having time to spend on leisure or with friends.

“I don’t get to go out in the week, but I do manage to get out for a bit on a Saturday for some time away. I don’t really get a lot of time to myself,” he added.

“It is because I have to get all my schoolwork done and look after my parents so there is no time. I don’t really think about it, it’s just how I’ve been brought up.

“Sometimes school can be a challenge but they are quite understanding if I’m late in because I’ve had to make breakfast for example.”

The News & Star’s Give Them A Break campaign aims to raise enough money to send young carers like John from Eden, Carlisle and west Cumbria on respite breaks.

“You really look forward to them,” added John.

“It gets you out of the day-to-day life for just one day or whatever. They relieve stress and give you a bit of time out.”

The Give Them A Break appeal received a major boost this week when it received a whopping donation of £5,000 from west Cumbria based Nuclear Management Partners. Their generous donation was also teamed with the offer to arrange a trip for some of the young carers we are working with, to attend Whitehaven and Workington rugby league matches as well as to watch the Workington Comets in action at the speedway.

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