Natalie Horton, an advanced customer advisor at Plymouth Contact Centre, has nothing but praise for her colleagues at Royal Mail.
‘They are amazing,’ she tells Zoe Walker. ‘They really, really are. If I have an appointment with my son Nathan or I need to leave quickly they are great. It’s a big relief.’
Natalie’s been working for the business for 18 years.
But when she had son Nathan four years ago, she found she needed a bit more flex in her working arrangements.
Nathan was born with a clubfoot and underwent a series of medical procedures to treat it.
‘Nathan was non-verbal until October and he is still not saying sentences,’ Natalie says. ‘He will use picture boards to say what he wants – for example by pointing to a cup if he wants a drink.
‘He can be challenging if he is tired. And he wears special boots at night for his clubfoot. We were meant to find out at the 20-week scan that he had a clubfoot but we didn’t – we found out when he was born.
‘One in 1,000 babies are born with a clubfoot. When he was born the sole of Nathan’s foot was almost facing up in the air. When he was two weeks old he went into casts to turn it. And at seven weeks his achilles tendon was cut.
‘He had to wear Ponseti boots for 23 hours a day for 16 weeks. Now he wears them for 10 to 12 hours a night.
‘He wakes up screaming – and when he has growth spurts his feet hurt.
‘A clubfoot can be corrected, but not cured. He will never not have a clubfoot. It could stop him joining the armed forces. But I found out that Stephen Gerrard was born with a clubfoot – and it didn’t hold him back! The more you Google it, the more positive things come out of it.'
Natalie explains the rush of emotions that can arise from the changes and challenges associated with becoming a carer.
‘At first I blamed myself – what did I eat? Everything goes through your head. But it is just the way the baby has developed in your tummy.
‘I would say to anyone going through something similar with a child with clubfoot – go with it. Do what you are told to do. Because there is light at the end of the tunnel.
‘In a strange way – enjoy the journey. Even though you have to see them cry and struggle from the very first cast the changes are amazing. What the hospital does is amazing.
‘And Nathan is my little hero. He is an amazing boy, I have to say. He is so laid back and yet so stubborn! He spent the first year of his life in and out of hospital. And he will have to wear the boots until he is five.
‘It is a struggle at times – I am not going to lie.
‘My day starts anything from half three onwards – he wakes and he will not go back to sleep.
‘He might crash out at nursery or during the day but he usually goes until bedtime.
‘Caring and working is challenging, but it has its rewards. And he just melts peoples’ hearts he really does.
‘You have to explain to people who see him wearing the boots, but they are so lovely about it.
‘I would say to people going through something similar with a child – don’t worry or panic about it.
‘They are amazing children, all of them. I look at him every single day and I am so grateful. He has taught me a lot.’
If you’d like further information, please email: Parents.and.Carers@royalmail.com