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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 08:34 GMT
Born Survivors: Looking after Mum
Melissa, Ryan and their Mum, Corinna

Melissa (12) and Ryan Luker (14) are among the estimated 175,000 young carers in Britain. They juggle the enormous responsibility of looking after a parent and running their home whilst still going to school.

Since their Dad walked out six years ago, they have been looking after their mother Corinna who suffers from chronic depression, severe mood swings, osteoporosis and carpal tunnel syndrome, which has left her with no sensation in her hands.

Melissa and Ryan believe young carers like them need to be better understood and supported. They are the subjects of a BBC Three documentary and have written this diary about looking after their Mum.

TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER - MELISSA

BORN SURVIVORS
Ryan, Melissa and their Mum, Corinna
Wednesday 12 December
9pm, BBC Three

Today was an exciting day because after coming home from school we had a visit from a journalist from the Sunday Times. She came to interview me, Mum and Ryan because they are doing an article on young carers.

After Jessica left we had to do dinner with Mum and as it was late we had to do something quick. Mum wasn't hungry, she isn't when she gets anxious and depressed and also when she is in a lot of pain, but me and Ryan were starving. So we had pizza and garlic bread - yum, one of my favs.

School don't understand that some evenings I don't get any time to myself to do homework
Melissa

After dinner we had the usual evening chores like the washing-up, drying and bins to do. Then it was homework. I hate homework because sometimes I don't have time to do much and school don't understand that some evenings I don't get any time to myself to do homework.

We all went to bed really tired. Mum wasn't looking forward to going to bed this evening because she has had a device fitted to her bed this morning to help her get in and out of it and to help her turn over in the night. She kept insisting it would stop her sleeping but she was so tired she went out like a light.

WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER - RYAN

Mum had a good day today, her mood was good and she was in controllable pain. She had started dinner off so Lissy and I didn't have to cook but I dished because my Mum can't lift things in and out of the oven.

She has got carpal tunnel at the moment and her hands are funny - she can't feel very much and they hurt at the same time. Also, she can't tell if things are hot or cold with her fingers.

After dinner I didn't go on the computer, we watched a film as a family, we watched Borat again, man that is so good. I was like rolling around laughing with Mum and Melissa.

I am looking forward to Christmas because Mum tries to make it as happy as possible. Even though we don't have a lot of money she always gets us some presents and we have lovely food.

THURSDAY 6 DECEMBER - MELISSA

Today we had to stop at the post office on the way home from school to pay some bills.

Thursdays are good because me and Ryan also go to young carers group. Today we made Christmas crackers and wind chimes.

I usually phone Mum once a day just to see that everything is ok at home
Melissa

We don't really get any time to ourselves until we get home and Mum treated us to a takeaway which is great because once a fortnight no one has to cook and the washing up is usually just three plates and a bowl. We had pizza because it was buy one get one free and two pizzas feeds us three with enough left over for my brother to do something revolting with, like eat it cold for breakfast the next morning - sick or what?

I didn't really get to see much of Mum today. She looked tired this evening and went to bed early. When she goes to bed early, me and Ryan have to put Maisie, our Jack Russell, out for her last visit to the garden and we have to lock up. We do it together so that between us we remember to do everything and we check on Mum before going to bed.

School was good today. I usually phone Mum once a day just to see that everything is ok at home and then I can tell whether she is in pain or depressed, and then when I walk home with Ryan I can tell him and we know what to expect when we get home.

FRIDAY 7 DECEMBER - RYAN

After school my Auntie Lil came to see us. She has always been really close to us all and she tries to help whenever she can, but she works long hours too.

When A. Lil comes down to visit I know I don't have to worry for a while and it's good
Ryan

Anyway, we all went to Asda to do the fortnightly shop. I have to push the trolley. Mum wanted to get some things ready for Christmas so would you believe it, I had to push around a trolley with crackers in it as well as girlie things, which is all too embarrassing for a teenager.

After shopping, Mum and Auntie Lil were busy chatting so I went upstairs into my bedroom and watched some TV and played on the PlayStation. Melissa didn't annoy me this evening because she was not feeling brilliant because of an upset stomach. But apart from washing-up the dinner things and emptying the bin I didn't have to do too much after shopping because A. Lil was there.

I like it when I get a break from caring for Mum. When A. Lil comes down to visit I know I don't have to worry for a while and it's good. It's funny really because I suppose I can relax when she is about because she knows how to deal with mum too.

SATURDAY 8 DECEMBER - RYAN

I love Saturdays because we can do all that Mum needs and still have time to do things that we love to do. Naturally, I have been on the PC playing Medieval 2 which is one of the games I enjoy playing at the moment.

I didn't get a lie-in though because we have a hairdresser that comes to our home because Mum can't use a hairdressing shop.

When Alexa the hairdresser left it was time to get dressed because we went to a Christmas party with the other young carers. We both enjoyed it, Lissy more than me because there are not many kids there my age anymore. But I was able to catch up with some of the other kids from the other group that I don't get to see very often.

Now I cook on a Saturday by myself and whatever I want to cook but I cheated this week and I cooked curly chips and popcorn chicken bites. Normally I cook something like a lasagne or shepherd's pie but I didn't have a lot of time today and I told Mum I would still cook.

Right I am off now, got another empire to conquer.

MONDAY 10 DECEMBER - MELISSA

I have had a very eventful day: firstly I did my normal jobs in the morning including Mum's medication and then I went to school. When I got home my Auntie Lil was there. She had come to see us because we were going to watch the documentary we had helped make with the BBC.

Life isn't all drudgery, we do have fun too
Melissa

I was so nervous about watching it and must admit I sat on the settee with a pillow on my lap just in case I got embarrassed. But after the initial two minutes I enjoyed what I was watching.

When we were approached about making the documentary of our lives as young carers I agreed to do it because I wanted to get across to the rest of the world the fact that children and teenagers like me and Ryan do exist and how we have to live our lives.

Looking After Mum certainly got across what I wanted to tell people about what it's like. Although it is a serious subject there are fun parts, because life isn't all drudgery, we do have fun too.


Born Survivors: Looking After Mum will be broadcast at 9pm on Wednesday, 12 December on BBC Three



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