Hearing 2-year-old Bronte say “I love you” for the first time was an especially emotional moment for Hellen and Martin Cassell, as their daughter had been unable to speak for her whole life.
"Me and my wife just looked at each other and that was great,” said Martin, 41, an engineer from Rotherham, South Yorks. “There were floods of tears, tears of joy for a nice welcome change."
Bronte was born 15 weeks prematurely weighing just 1lb 12oz. She spent her first 15 weeks of life switching between intensive care and special care wards.
"She was so small I just could not understand how she survived,” said Hellen, 41. “But she has a lot of fight in her; she is really feisty."
Bronte had difficulty breathing and had to have a tracheotomy operation when she was 6 months old. Tubes were fitted into her windpipe just below her vocal cords, which left her unable to speak.
She learnt to mouth words by watching her brother Noah, who’s just 8 months older.
"It was really frustrating. Frustrating for us as parents, but really frustrating for Bronte as well,” said Martin.
"You could see that she was getting frustrated when she was trying to speak. She could mouth words but no noise would come out of her mouth."
A year and a half later doctors at Sheffield Children's Hospital were finally able to remove the tubes. And Bronte stunned everyone by speaking straightaway.
"After they took the tubes out Martin looked at her and said, 'I love you Bronte' and she looked back and said 'I love you Daddy'. Then she looked at me and said 'I love you too, Mummy'. We just cried." said Hellen.
“It's been a long time in the waiting but more than worth it to hear those wonderful words.”
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