An orphaned teen has vowed to care for his younger brother and fulfil the roles of mum and dad, after tragedy struck the family twice.
Nathan Phillips, 19, and Luke, 13, lost both their parents in the space of just two short years, leaving the pair – who have no living grandparents – to fend for themselves.
Their mum Anita lost her life to cancer in 2016 when she was just 53 years old, and their dad, David, died in a head-on collision with a truck just three months ago.
Luke, the younger brother, was on the back of the motorcycle David was driving and was severely injured in the crash. Part of the young teen’s foot had to be amputated after he sustained life-changing injuries.
For Nathan, there’s no more partying or going out with his mates, saying:
I’ve got to focus on looking after Luke now. When he was first in hospital we had to keep telling him Dad was okay. It was pretty hard seeing Luke like that.
He thought Dad was okay when he was in A&E. We had to keep telling him it was all right. Telling Luke that Dad died was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do.
The doctors said if we’d told him straight away he’d have panicked and he wouldn’t have been able to go into surgery.
Nathan recalled how Luke’s foot got stuck under the wheel of the lorry, and the trauma left his little brother needing to have half his big toe and all of his little toe amputated.
He also lost a lot of the skin on his foot, and needed a skin graft from the top of his leg. Nathan has nursed Luke on the path to recovery while still grieving for both their parents himself.
He managed to get himself a better-paid job, having swapped pot-washing work for a position at Aldi. Then he got to grips with running a household – paying bills, doing the chores, and looking after them both.
The tragedy has been life-changing for the 19-year-old, who states:
I used to spend more time with my mates. I’d be out in my car all the time or on my Xbox. I can still do those things now – but not so much.
I’ve got the washing up to do, the laundry, the shopping, making sure Luke’s uniform and my work stuff is sorted. I feel as if I have been left to do everything by myself.
But he remains positive and strong for his little brother.
Speaking for the first time, Nathan continued:
It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just how the world is. It has just meant I’ve had to mature a bit quicker.
I think it has taught me to make the most of every day, don’t let little things upset you and just enjoy the days as they come. I don’t want to be upset or angry about losing Mum and Dad.
I’ve got to focus on looking after Luke now. We respect each other a lot more, I think. I have to do things like wake him up early for school – but he’s all right about it.
Despite the physical and psychological trauma, Nathan says Luke is doing well, back at school, and is off his crutches. Nathan is now Luke’s legal guardian, but does get help from aunties and uncles.
After hearing their story the local community rallied round, setting up a crowdfunding campaign and donating thousands to help the boys.
Kindhearted friends and family set an initial target of £5,000 but that has been surpassed, with the total currently standing at £11,000. Nathan is hugely appreciative and promises every penny will be put to good use.
Meanwhile, the pain of losing dad David, who worked as a CAD (computer aided design) operator, and mum Anita, a sales assistant at Morrison’s, has bought the brothers closer together than ever.
It’s been tough now and then. Our relationship was always good but has grown dramatically since then.
He’s always been a good lad and never misbehaved. We argue now and again, but nothing serious.
Just goes to show the strength and power of brotherly love.
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A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.