A young Blackpool mum has proved she is a class act after overcoming a double tragedy to graduate from university with first class honours.
Caitlin Tattersall battled through her degree in social work with support from family and University of Central Lancashire tutors after her five-year-old son, Kaden Hadfield, died from systemic onset arthritis.
The youngster was diagnosed with the condition after two years of investigations, but medics failed to pick up on his condition until seven weeks before he died.
Throughout two years of turmoil Caitlin, who grew up in the resort, had to juggle regular hospital visits with Kaden, looking after his younger sister Taylor, now five, and her own studies.
The former Thames Primary, Palatine High and Blackpool Sixth Form student originally started studying sport and exercise science at university in Loughborough when she was 18.
But following the sudden death of her mother from a suspected bleed on the brain at just 45, she left.
After becoming a mum she decided to go back into education to fulfil her dream of becoming a social worker and started a course at UCLan.
Caitlin, 28, says: “As a single mum-of-two, I wanted to set an example for my children to show them that no matter what age you are, education is important for your future.
“I’ve lived on council estates in Bolton and Blackpool throughout my life, which made me aware of the stigma attached to this.
“But I believe that with hard work and dedication you can achieve anything which is why I chose to return to education at the age of 25.
“My first year at UCLan was tough as I applied through clearing and didn’t get a place at the Preston campus.
“Luckily, I was offered a space at UCLan’s Burnley Campus when I expressed how determined I was to start the course immediately.
“There was a lot of travelling on public transport, but I had set my heart on a degree in social work so that I could make a difference and I didn’t want to give up on my dream – this was my second chance.”
In her second year, she got a placement at the Fylde Coast Women’s Aid.
However, it was then that Kaden’s condition flared up and hospital appointments were a regular occurrence.
She adds: “It was hard, very hard. It all started when he woke up with a sore ankle and I took him to A&E. They thought it was broken, they x-rayed him and sent me home with painkillers.”
But the youngster’s condition worsened and despite many more visits to doctors Caitlin said it was only after Kaden was referred to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool that his condition was finally diagnosed.
Caitlin, who now lives in Watson Road, South Shore, says: “When we finally had a referral appointment at Alder Hey, Kaden was very weak, but he was determined to get better.”
But he died from sepsis in November 2016.
His mum says she wanted to make both Kaden and her late mum proud adding: “I used January 2017 as a turning point and a fresh start to get back on track.
“Nothing will ever help me get over what happened to Kaden.
“But I had to be positive for my daughter Taylor who was so brave.”
Throughout her son’s illness, Caitlin was determined to continue with her studies.
She recalls: “Every morning we would get up, get his breakfast to line his stomach before his medication then do an hour and a half of physio before I took them to school. Then I’d get the train to university.
“It was quite hard work but it was what we did, we managed.
“I wanted to be a good role model to my children and show them that you can achieve.”
She adds: “By the time Kaden was admitted to Alder Hey he needed a blood transfusion, he was so weak he was in the high dependency unit.”
Kaden spent seven weeks in Alder Hey, during which time Caitlin stayed with him – travelling back and forth to lectures, and said he had been showing signs of recovery before he succumbed to sepsis and died.
“I’d like to thank my family, UCLan and the Fylde Coast Women’s Aid who gave me the support I needed to get through.”
She now hopes to use her degree to help set up a social enterprise to help resettle offenders.