A much-loved Hartlepool disabled man who was not expected to live past the age of one has died at 32.
Hundreds packed into St Oswald’s Church this week to say goodbye to Michael Landreth, whose death has left a huge hole in the lives of his family and friends.
Michael was born with cerebral palsy and profound learning difficulties and went to stay with Cath and Derek Landreth, who were respite foster carers at the time.
Despite being told he wouldn’t survive past his first birthday, the pair decided to adopt the youngster and for more than three decades dedicated their lives to giving him the best possible life.
Last month Michael, who had undergone numerous operations, including having rods put in and out of his spine, having a tracheoctomy fitted to help him breathe and a feeding tube in his stomach, was taken to hospital with what his mum thought was a chest infection.
But, doctors broke the devastating news that he had cancer in his throat.
He would be there with a cheeky grin on his faceCath Landreth
Cath, 66, of Stonethwaite Close, said her youngest son died peacefully in his sleep just five days later on August 27 in the University Hospital of North Tees.
She said: “It was such a shock. Michael was always poorly, but he always used to just bounce back, so that’s what we were expecting this time. To be told he had cancer was devastating. We are just trying to take some comfort in the fact he went peacefully.
“He has left a massive hole. All of a sudden someone is not there, we are in a fog at the moment.
“We all dedicated our lives to him and Michael had such a wonderful life.”
Cath and Derek, 70, who have two older children, Derek, 43, and Claire, 41, as well as five grandchildren, said they never for a second regretted their decision to adopt Michael and said he brought so much love and happiness to their lives and that of everyone he met.
Cath said although Michael couldn’t speak, he could certainly communicate in his own way to let people know what he wanted.
She said: “He was always full of mischief, he was like a naughty child really.
“He got the nickname ‘Captain Chaos’ because if there was ever any trouble he would be there with a cheeky grin on his face.
“It totally enriches your own life having someone like that in it. The rewards are amazing, such as passing every little milestone. He had some fabulous, fabulous friends.”
Michael lived a fulfilling life visiting many countries around the world for holidays and taking part in hundreds of activities in his wheelchair, as well as being in a special needs drama group for 18 years.
He tried his hand at almost everything, including ice-skating, rock-climbing, horse and trap riding, abseiling and canoeing and regularly went to the theatre to see shows, including Matilda in London just weeks before he died. Cath said: “In our family we have a motto, it’s not, ‘we can’t do it’, it’s, ‘how are we going to do it’.”