Luke Phillips was only 11 years old when he lost his mom to cancer. And his life would change again just two years later when a tragic motorcycle accident claimed his dad’s life and left him in a coma. Luke even had no idea of his dad’s fate before he underwent an operation to remove part of his foot. Then, while Luke was on the road to recovery, his older brother, Nathan, made the biggest decision of his life.
Losing a parent is obviously devastating for anyone at any age. But when mom Anita Phillips succumbed to cancer in 2016 at the age of 53, her son Luke was just 11. Anita also left behind her older son, Nathan, and her husband, David.
But despite David dealing with his own heartbreaking grief, he reportedly pulled together for his two sons and acted as both mom and dad. And in his new extended role, it’s likely that he did his utmost to make life the best he could for his boys.
For instance, photos have been published of the dad astride a motorcycle parked in a driveway or backyard. Another, meanwhile, shows him perched on the seat with one of his sons sat behind him, arms wrapped tightly around his waist on the stationary bike.
It seems likely, then, that David would take his boys out for a ride every now and then too. Certainly, this was the case on July 2, 2018. Because on that occasion, David took Luke out for a spin in the area around the family home in Nuneaton, U.K.
Father and son were riding down Purley Chase Lane, in fact, not far from their house. Yet as they wound their way along the tree-lined road that cuts through the fields of rural Warwickshire, they crossed paths with a truck heading in the opposite direction.
The truck then struck the motorcycle head-on. In the resulting smash, Luke suffered serious injuries that would change his life forever. The 13-year-old was therefore rushed to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Yet despite first responders’ best efforts, there was nothing they could do for David. The 58-year-old widower and father of two sadly died at the crash-site.
Due to the seriousness of Luke’s injuries, though, everyone kept his dad’s passing from him at first. The 13-year-old had, after all, suffered a leg injury so severe that part of his foot needed to be removed. This damage in itself was enough to have changed the boy’s life entirely.
The young lad would also later fall into a coma and spend some time fighting for his life. And throughout it all, he had no idea about the condition of his father. In the interests of the boy’s recovery, it seems, everyone thought it best that he didn’t know the truth.
His big brother, Nathan, however, remained at his side. As the 19-year-old recalled to the Daily Mirror in October 2018, “When he was first in the hospital, we had to keep telling him Dad was okay.” Doctors were reportedly concerned about the impact that the news might have on the young boy.
Nathan continued, “The doctors said if we’d told him straight away he’d have panicked, and he wouldn’t have been able to go into surgery.” This appears to be particularly important as it seems incredible that the youngster survived the wreck at all.
When the truck and the motorcycle collided, for instance, it’s believed that Luke’s foot became trapped under its wheel. The resulting trauma evidently left the teenager’s leg in terrible shape. Such was the damage to the lower extremity, in fact, that doctors ended up removing some of his toes.
In addition to the amputations, Luke was in need of further surgery too. It seems that the teenager’s foot lost much of its skin thanks to being dragged by the truck. Doctors therefore performed grafts where they took skin from Luke’s thigh in order to patch up the damage caused in the accident.
“It was pretty hard seeing Luke like that,” Nathan admitted to the Daily Mirror. And with both their mom and now their dad no longer around, the burden of his little brother’s recovery now fell to Nathan. This meant that delivering tragic news also became Nathan’s responsibility.
“[Luke] thought Dad was okay when he was in A&E,” Nathan reiterated. “We had to keep telling him it was all right.” The situation, however, was far from all right. And it was now up to the 19-year-old to break the news to his wheelchair-bound little brother.
“Telling Luke that Dad died was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do,” Nathan confessed. And it was no doubt just as devastating for Luke. After all, the 13-year-old had to now not only recover from his own injuries, but he also had some tough news to digest.
And then, of course, there were the practical hurdles to overcome. With their mom and dad gone, what would happen to the brothers next? At 19, Nathan was legally an adult and old enough to look after himself. For Luke, however, the situation was far more complicated.
The 13-year-old would need to be nursed back to health, for one thing. Then he would also likely need help adapting to the physical limitations of losing his toes. As Nathan described, his brother’s little toe had been completely amputated, while 50 percent of his big toe had also been removed.
The removal of a little toe can be an easier thing to overcome, as balance is only slightly affected when walking. But the loss of part of Luke’s big toe could have more significant consequences for him. You see, it plays a more important role than you might think.
The digit supports almost half of a person’s weight, after all, as it’s used for leverage in every footstep. For Luke, then, learning to adapt to the partial loss of his big toe could pose a tough challenge. This is particularly true when you consider that it is combined with the loss of the fifth toe as well.
On top of this, there still remained the question of who would become Luke’s legal guardian. At 13, he was still a minor, after all. So who was up to the task? Well, Nathan and Luke do have aunts and uncles who no doubt offer support through their times of immense difficulties.
And Nathan is, of course, suffering himself. Not only has he lost both of his parents in the space of two years, but he is also hurting to see his younger brother in bad shape from the crash that had killed their father. Nevertheless, the teenager has somehow been able to set his own grief aside – and make an incredible sacrifice.
On Luke’s part, he was soon on the road to recovery. Despite his horrific injuries and the psychological impact of both the crash and the loss of his father, in fact, it wasn’t long before the 13-year-old was back on his feet.
Within four months of the accident and with a summer of recovery behind him, Luke was even back at school. And by October 2018, he had started Year Eight, which is the British equivalent of Seventh Grade. He has even started to walk without the use of his crutches.
And during Luke’s recovery, Nathan made a decision that would further change the course of his life. It’s understandable, of course, that the 19-year-old had changed profoundly in light of the tragedy that had befallen his family. But the teenager seemingly knew what to do in order to move forward.
The two brothers had naturally grown closer than ever by this point. And while Nathan enjoyed the activities you might expect of a teenage boy approaching adulthood, his priorities had changed accordingly. As he told the Daily Mirror, “I’ve got to focus on looking after Luke now.”
Yes, Nathan ditched his games consoles and cruising with his friends. Instead, he picked up the role of Mom and Dad when his brother needed him. And in the absence of their parents, the big brother has become guardian to Luke, with all-important assistance from his aunts and uncles.
Yet Nathan quickly learned what it takes to keep the household running. He took on the responsibility of paying the bills, for one thing, and he does the cooking and cleaning and other daily chores. And it likely hasn’t been an easy journey.
Before their deaths, you see, Anita and David had had the time to carve out careers for themselves: Anita worked at a supermarket; David was employed in digital design. Nathan, however, is only a couple years out of school and just setting out in working life.
Nathan had previously worked as a dishwasher. Perhaps realizing that this wouldn’t be enough to support himself and his brother in the family home, he later went for a new job. And before long, he scored the role of logistics assistant at a supermarket in the nearby town of Atherstone.
Nathan’s job isn’t the only thing that has changed, though. The teenager has also learned that he can’t always balance the same social activities with his new role. As he described it, “I used to spend more time with my mates. I’d be out in my car all the time or [playing] on my Xbox.”
And while Nathan concedes that he still makes a little time for typical teenage activities, the opportunities are rarer. He said, “I’ve got the washing up to do, the laundry, the shopping and making sure Luke’s uniform and my work stuff is sorted.”
“Before losing my mom I had a normal life,” Nathan said. “Going around doing my own thing, not having to worry about anyone but myself.” But the teenager doesn’t complain. “It’s nobody’s fault,” he said. “It’s just how the world is. It has just meant I’ve had to mature a bit quicker.”
The boys have had some support from the local community too. When their story spread, in fact, people came to realize the situation that the brothers were in. So friends and family got together to do what they could to help Luke and Nathan out in their time of need.
Through Luke’s school friends, a crowd-funding page was subsequently set up. And although a modest target was set, the donations quickly came flooding in. The initial goal of $6,375 was soon smashed, in fact, and the current total raised for the boys stands at almost $16,000.
Nathan, who has been humbled by the support, admitted, “It’ll make life easier.” And the teenager already has ideas about how the money will help. “We want to do a few things to the house,” he revealed. “Hopefully, we can make it a bit more homely for me and Luke.”
And the community’s generosity didn’t end there. A man who lives next door to the Phillips’ has raised $2,000 from a sponsored cycle ride too. A local restaurant, meanwhile, raised some additional cash through a fund-raising event featuring a barbecue, live music and a raffle.
But, of course, nothing will make up for such a huge loss at their tender age. Nathan, putting his own grief to one side, just focuses on his little brother. He told the Daily Mirror, “He still gets his moments where he says ‘I miss Mom and Dad,’ or ‘I wish Dad was here.’”
And although the boys squabble every now and again, like most brothers do, ultimately their circumstances have brought them closer together. As Nathan described, “It has been tough now and then. Our relationship was always good but has grown dramatically since then.”
“I think it has taught me to make the most of every day,” Nathan said. “Don’t let little things upset you and just enjoy the days as they come.” And while some of those days are spent with his girlfriend, the 19-year-old’s main focus is his brother. He concluded, “I don’t want to be upset or angry about losing Mom and Dad. I’ve got to focus on looking after Luke now.”