Kalvin Phillips sends moving message to Leeds United's youngest 'little fighter' born eight weeks early
Little Grace Craddock-Marks was born on Monday eight weeks before her due date, weighing just 1.89kg.
Her mothers, 35-year-old Charlie and 42-year-old Tracy, have been astounded by the support from Leeds United fans who have rallied around their "little fighter".
After suffering complications with the pregnancy last month, she was admitted to hospital and it was feared she may have to deliver the baby.
Tracy was able to return home but she was readmitted to hospital on Saturday.
Doctors decided it was safe to deliver the baby through a caesarean section and after a difficult delivery, Grace was born on Monday morning.
Charlie, a data analyst and lifelong Leeds fan, said: “I got to cut the cord and then they took her up to intensive care. Because Tracy was so poorly she was on the high dependency unit, so I went up on my own to see the baby.
“By Monday night, some kind of spirit must have hit her as she was well enough to go into the nursery. She really is a little fighter."
Tracy has made a good recovery and has now been moved to the same ward as baby Grace.
Sadly, this means that Charlie is no longer permitted to visit the hospital due to Covid-19 restrictions and she faces an anxious wait for her family to return to their home in Bournemouth.
Charlie said: “We got to spend a little family time together on Wednesday before we were all split apart.
“She could be in hospital until her due date at the end of March, which is quite a way away."
After watching Kalvin Phillips pick up an injury in the win against Crystal Palace on Monday, Charlie tweeted a picture of Grace with her Leeds United teddy bear in the hope that it would lift the midfielder's spirits.
Kalvin, who was born a triplet eight weeks early, sent an emotional message to Charlie, promising to send Grace her first Leeds kit when she grows bigger.
He tweeted: "Thank you this did make me smile. Even more so that me and my two sisters were born eight weeks early too.
"You’ve got a little fighter that’s for sure. Wishing you and your little star a speedy recovery. When she’s big enough we will sort her a kit out!"
Charlie burst into tears when she read the message.
“I was feeling a bit lost - it was the end of the night and I was exhausted", she said.
"I didn’t really have a good sleep and I didn’t know what was happening with my wife or the baby.
“I saw his message and I burst into floods of tears. It meant the world to me.
"Whatever Kalvin sends Grace will be hung up in her nursery and something she can treasure for the rest of her life. He will forever be her honorary godfather."
After posting in a fans group on Facebook in the hope of reaching Kalvin, the couple were flooded with messages of support.
Charlie added: "Some people had premature babies themselves, other people have had premature babies that had gone onto flourish in life. All of the words have really lifted me and made me feel loved.
"Cut me in half and I’m Leeds. I’ve been singing the Leeds song to the baby while she was in the stomach and in hospital!"
It's not the first time Leeds fans have rallied behind Charlie.
When Charlie's dad tragically took his own life in 2010, she was supported by the Leeds community who she says helped her get through the devastating time.
Charlie said: “As soon as I was able to walk we were playing football together, he used to take me up to the games. When he passed away, I couldn’t deal with football for a while.
"But in the last few years, I don’t feel pain with football anymore because of the fans and their support. They’ve been incredible.
“There’s something so different about a football community. It’s not just a bunch of people who go to a game, with Leeds it’s family.
"Everyone is connected by this love of the football club, we’ve been through so many years of bad times, but through all the losses everyone just sticks together."
Charlie hopes that sharing Grace's story and Kalvin's kind message will encourage other fans who are going through a difficult time.
Holding back tears, Charlie added: “The messages have really, really helped me."
"Kalvin showed me an act of kindness, and I have already passed that onto a young boy who contacted me who was being bullied - I’ve given him one of my football shirts and hopefully he will pass it forwards.
“Spread the kindness, because we all need it at this time.”
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