HE WAS their warrior son and it broke their hearts to give up their battle to save him.
Exposed to the world’s searchlight and denied the chance to live out their family tragedy in private, the parents of little Charlie Gard could only apologise to him. “So sorry that we couldn’t save you.”
Connie Yates and Chris Gard had watched for 11 and a half months as the son they brought home from hospital believing to be healthy, disintegrated before their eyes.
They could have been rendered helpless by the ferocity of the DNA depletion syndrome that had afflicted him. Instead, they were empowered. Their fight touched the world. It went all the way to the White House and the Vatican, but in the end it was science, not emotion, that brought it to a close.
“Our son is an absolute warrior and we could not be prouder of him and we will miss him terribly,” Ms Yates told High Court, as she and Mr Gard accepted that the fight had to end.
Time had simply run out, their barrister, Grant Armstrong, told the judge. The damage to Charlie’s muscle and tissue was irreversible.
“His parents’ worst fears have been confirmed. It is now too late to treat Charlie.”
Ms Yates’ words as the case drew to a close spoke to the soul of every parent.
“Mummy and Daddy love you so much, Charlie,” she said. “We always have and we always will, and we are so sorry that we couldn’t save you.
“We had the chance but we weren’t allowed to give you that chance.”
Time, she said, had been wasted. “Had Charlie been given treatment sooner he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy.”
The rarity of the disease he inherited and the absence of an accepted cure did not mean, she said, that treatment would not have worked. It certainly did not mean it should not have been tried.
She and Mr Gard had asked for a three-month trial, in case it yielded a hint of improvement.
“Charlie did have a real chance of getting better if only therapy was started sooner,” Ms Yates said. “It was never false hope. Now we will never know what would have happened.
“We truly believe that any parent would have wanted the same thing if they knew what we knew.
“We are now going to spend our last precious moments with our son Charlie, who unfortunately won’t make his first birthday in just under two weeks’ time.”
London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital said “the agony, desolation and bravery” of Ms Yates and Mr Gard commanded their utmost respect and humbled all who worked there.
Mr Justice Francis agreed. No-one could comprehend their agony, he said.
Nor could many understand why so much had been said, as the judge put it, “by those who know almost nothing about this case but who feel entitled to express opinions”.
As he spoke, protesters outside sobbed. One woman fell to the ground, shouting: “He had a chance and you took it away.”