London: The joy and excitement accompanying the arrival of a baby boy was marred with sadness for Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones.
Newborn Nico should have had a big brother to welcome him home from the hospital, but the footie star and wife Dani Lawrence lost their son Luca to a rare form of leukemia just five months earlier.
A keen footballer who loved watching his father play, brown-haired Luca was Jones’ son from a previous relationship.
Luca was just six when he died after battling through 18 months of treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, including a harrowing blood cell transplant.
Jones remembers the day his first son was diagnosed with the dreaded disease.
“It’s one of those phone calls you just can’t imagine happening,” a newspaper quoted him as saying.
“When you hear the word cancer it’s terrifying. I went numb. Suddenly nothing else – the World Cup, football – mattered,” he said.
Australian Jones was in Johannesburg training for the World Cup with his national team and immediately flew to France where Luca lived with his mother Julie.
The prognosis was grim. The couple spent as much time as possible with Luca as he underwent treatment.
Within a few months Luca had undergone a blood stem-cell transplant but six months later doctors declared that the transplant had failed and little Luca was too ill to have another.
“It was awful. The medicines were so unpleasant. He’d be begging us to stop. It broke our hearts seeing him so sad.
“We never cried in front of him but sometimes it was overwhelming. I’d go out and break down. I couldn’t stand seeing him in pain,” he said.
When Lawrence, a model and a physiotherapist, fell pregnant the couple decided to tell Luca after just six weeks hoping the news would cheer him up and aware that their time together as a family was limited.
They had already talked with Luca about becoming a big brother one day.
He was delighted with the news, smothering his step-mother in kisses and cuddles when she told him he would have a little brother or sister soon, demanding to know where the baby was just a few days later before Jones and Lawrence explained how a pregnancy works.
He even drew pictures of the family for the new arrival.
Unfortunately Luca didn’t live to meet his baby brother, losing his fight against cancer just over two months later.
Lawrence has the pictures ready to frame them for Nico when he’s a bit older.
This is one way that the couple hope that he will get to learn about his brother that he didn’t get chance to meet.
His pictures are around the house and Jones still has lots of his favourite toys.
Talking about the feelings he has about welcoming a new son so soon after saying goodbye to another Jones said: “Having a newborn baby to look after has given us a focus, something positive in our lives again.
“No one will ever replace Luca but Nico is a blessing. It means we can share happy times again,” he added.