JANE FRYER: We’re mums and dads, not troublemakers, say Alfie’s Army 

JANE FRYER: We’re mums and dads, not troublemakers, say Alfie’s Army as Alder Hey hospital claims it has faced a ‘barrage’ of abuse from supporters

  • Terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans had life support removed on Monday night
  • Court of Appeal judges rejected a fresh bid to let him fly to Rome to receive care 
  • Staff at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool say they have faced a ‘barrage’ of abuse 
  • Alfie’s father Tom Evans wants doctors prosecuted for conspiracy to murder son

The wind is so strong it takes four men to tether the brand new letter balloons that spell out ‘ALFIE’ to the bus stop outside Alder Hey Hospital.

Even then the F twists backwards and the E keeps tangling and spinning in the gale. Next to them, three fresh bunches of blue and purple balloons bounce and buffet noisily.

‘Last night, the hospital cut all the balloons down – why would they do that? It’s mindlessly mean,’ says Susie, a mother and grandmother from Bootle. ‘Why would anyone do that? This country has gone to pieces. We have to fight back.’

A little earlier a man brandishing an English flag was chased away from the site by protesters, yelling abuse.

Tom Evans (pictured) said he and the ‘warrior’ toddler’s mother Kate James will meet with Alder Hey’s doctors but he believed they ‘hate’ the couple

Alfie’s mother Kate James posted another picture on a Facebook supporters’ group as he continues to cling to life (left) while people show their support outside the hospital (right)

‘He’s not welcome here. What good has the English government done Alfie? Any country that leaves a little boy to die in hospital is broken,’ says a lady called Jean from Wrexham with red hair. ‘The dogs in the PDSA [People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals] down there are getting better care than this poor baby!’

Ten minutes later, a box of Italian flags is delivered and a cheer goes up – everyone here loves the Italians after Pope Francis and the Italian government tried and failed to have Alfie Evans flown to a Vatican-linked hospital in Rome for further treatment.

Foot soldiers from Alfie’s Army shimmy up lampposts to get the flags flying as a bank of armed police in high visibility jackets watch from the hospital.

When Alfie’s life support machine was switched off on Monday evening, it was hard to imagine things could become any more fraught and painful.

But the longer the little boy clings to life and the more photos and videos his family release on social media of him sleeping on his mother’s chest, having his cheek stroked to music and supposedly smiling, the more acrimonious things have become. 

Even by the standards of the past few days – which have seen death threats issued online to doctors, desperate Facebook pleas for ventilation equipment and even threats to burn the hospital down – yesterday was a particularly difficult day.

At 8am, Alfie’s father Tom Evans announces to the ever-waiting crowd of supporters that he and Alfie’s mum Kate have abandoned their dream of transferring their desperately sick son to a Vatican-sanctioned hospital in Rome with the help of Pope Francis.

Instead, they and hospital staff are going to put their bitter differences aside and discuss the possibility of Alfie going home. They are brave words, but it is a bitter disappointment, not just for Alfie’s family, but also for the ‘Army’ keeping vigil in the cold outside.

Alfie’s continuing survival is a clear sign of the doctors’ failings, according to Tom and his Christian legal team. ‘Alfie doesn’t need intensive care any more… He could last for months, possibly years,’ says Tom. ‘Some people say it’s a miracle. It’s not a miracle. It’s a misdiagnosis.’

For their part, the doctors – who always said Alfie was likely to live for hours, maybe days, after the machine was switched off – admit he’s battled on longer than they expected.

Many of Alfie’s Army have been here for weeks – sleeping in cars parked on the grass verge outside the hospital, washing with wet wipes in the hospital loos or the nearby McDonald’s, drinking endless coffees, queueing for electric plug sockets in the hospital to recharge their phones, greasy-haired and gritty-eyed and waiting, waiting, waiting.

Supporters shared this photo of mother Kate James cradling her son at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, where doctors have withdrawn life support

Children look at flowers and tributes to Alfie Evans left outside at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

A supporter cries after hearing the appeal is lost with supporters outside Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool

They are family members, friends, and people who have seen the story on television or read it in the papers and want to show their support or just see what it’s all about.

Yesterday, as Alfie’s plight reached news channels around the world, there was a more international flavour. Italian and Polish TV crews turn up and start broadcasting, a crowd of very well-dressed Poles from the Wrexham Polish international Support Centre arrive to put up a huge card to Alfie that reads, ‘We hope God helps you if humans cannot,’ and to tie Polish flags to lampposts where they flap alongside the Italian standard.

Susie, a grandmother with a diamond stud in her nose, has been practically living here for more than a fortnight, returning to her home on the outskirts of Liverpool only to shower and grab the odd hour’s sleep.

‘I am physically, emotionally and spiritually spent, but I can’t leave. I won’t leave until there’s a resolution,’ she says.

Shannon, from Wrexham, here with her aunt and her granny, Kathleen, from Burnley, is just 14 but had open-heart surgey three times when she was a tiny baby.

‘We had to come,’ says her granny. ‘What has happened to Alfie can happen to any child. Shannon’s been on a life support machine. Imagine if we’d turned that off. We’ve been there. We know what it’s like.’

Of course, Shannon’s prognosis was rather different to little Alfie’s – she wasn’t already in a semi-vegetative state or suffering from an incurable degenerative neurological condition which has destroyed almost all of her brain.

But her granny doesn’t see it like this. ‘It doesn’t make any difference,’ she says. ‘If a child is breathing, he’s alive. A life is a life.’

Police enter Alder Hey Hospital where Alfie Evans is being treated in Liverpool

Crowds gather in support of the desperately sick toddler Alfie Evans at Belfast City Hall to voice their support for the child

Meanwhile, inside the hospital, little Alfie soldiers on, deep in a coma but breathing unaided and family members visit his bedside in pairs for a cuddle and later complain that hospital staff uncaringly searched their bags as they went in and out.

By 5pm, the group of mums with prams, grannies, retired dads and tattoed young men outside the hospital has swollen with the arrival of school children, passers-by and news crews.

They’re a motley bunch and might be committed to the point of obsession, but they don’t seem to be the sort who’d send death threats to the Alder Hey doctors, or blockade the hospital doors – as a bigger crowd did on Monday – or threaten hard-working NHS doctors and promise they’d burn down the hospital. If anything, some of them feel rather vulnerable.

‘People talk about troublemakers, but all we want is to show our support. We’re not the people on the internet stirring it all up. We’re mums, dads. Anyone who has a child has a vested interest in this case,’ says Karen, from Derbyshire. ‘We won’t go until Alfie’s freed.’

Later, Tom reappears. Tired, deadpan and shattered, he makes a brief statement, quietly asking Alfie’s Army to disperse and to let them get on with the business of saying goodbye to their son.

Some supporters look discombobulated and lost – their purpose suddenly evaporated with no satisfactory result. ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ says one. ‘I’ll be here all night.’

Most though start quietly gathering their things and packing up as, yards away, other mums and dads with desperately sick children come and go from the hospital and the pile of cuddly toys clustered round the bottom of a lamppost grows by the minute.

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