Richard Coman, p2

For the first thirty-seven years of Richard’s life, his parents devoted themselves to looking after him. They received no help from the government. Richard did go to a special school for mentally handicapped children, but, still, taking care of him was an enormous job. Richard’s father, Sidney, continued with his job as an automobile mechanic. But because she had to spend so much time with Richard, Joan could only do part-time jobs of various kinds. Even when she was doing her housework, she had to interrupt herself constantly to make sure that Richard was all right. Of course most mother’s have to live like this when their children are very young, but Joan had to stay on the job for thirty-seven years. She says that during all that time she never had one full night’s sleep.

During all the years they had been looking after Richard, his parents never thought of trying to get money from the hospital in compensation for the doctors’ negligence. In 1994, when Richard was thirty, his parents happened to read a newspaper story about a twenty-eight year old man who had been damaged at birth and who had just been awarded money as the result of a law suit. They contacted the lawyers who had represented this man and were encouraged to take Richard’s case to court.

In January of 2002, they won their case. Richard was awarded over £3 million. The Comans used the money to buy a larger house and to hire caregivers to look after Richard. There was a bedroom where the caregivers could sleep and a room for Richard where he could play with his toys during the day. Joan and Sidney lived in the new house with Richard, but they kept their old house and they spent the weekends there so they could have some time to themselves. When she was not staying in the house with Richard, Joan always said good-night to him on the phone and then called again first thing in the morning.

Joan and Sidney were relieved that after winning the court case they didn’t have to worry about what would happen to Richard when they couldn’t look after him any more. And they felt that, despite everything, their lives had been better with Richard than they would have been without him. To them, he was still ‘a beautiful boy’—and one who, as Joan said, brought happiness and laughter into their lives.

- The Guardian, (London), 02.04.25, (Esther Addley); The Guardian, (London), 02.01.14, (Clare Dyer); What’s New Archive, (