Premature baby stuck in Cyprus can finally return home to Devon

Molly Cleathero can finally return to her parents' Devon home after she was born prematurely during a family holiday to Cyprus. Credit: Bethany Cleathero
Molly Cleathero can return to her parents' Devon home after she was born prematurely during a family holiday Credit: Bethany Cleathero

A Devon family whose baby was born abroad prematurely say they finally hope to return home after a series of delays and setbacks.

Bethany and Jan Cleathero's daughter Molly was born 16 weeks early while the family were on holiday in Cyprus.

The pair then began a desperate attempt to raise £45,000 to pay for Molly’s neonatal hospital treatment after realising it was not covered by their insurance.

The family had hoped to return home last week after the baby’s condition stabilised but were frustratingly unable to secure the travel documentation they needed from the UK government.

After their local MP stepped in, Bethany and Jay got the paperwork 10 days later, but sadly by this point Molly’s condition had deteriorated and doctors would not let her fly.

However, the family now say their daughter has been given the green light to return home where she can be united with her two siblings tomorrow.

Bethany told ITV News West Country: “For something that felt so unreachable our hopes have come true, to finally have Molly back in the UK and to be able to be at home with my other two daughters is something I just can’t put into words.

“Our time may be over in Cyprus but we know that the next chapter begins back in the UK with Molly’s journey to go home.”

Baby Molly has been in hospital since her surprise arrival during a family holiday to Cyprus Credit: Bethany Cleathero

After giving birth, Bethany was kept at a hospital an hour away from where her newborn daughter was being treated.

She was allowed to visit Molly for an hour a day, with only 20 minutes to bond with the newborn by the time she had been given medical updates.

Bethany’s husband Jan had to fly home with their other two children shortly after Molly was born.

At the time Bethany said dealing with the stress of a premature birth is traumatic, especially in a foreign country where language is a barrier and the family have no support network.

To make matters worse the pair were then met with a “dysfunctional” British government process to secure the paperwork they needed to bring their daughter home.

By the time they got the paperwork needed Molly had become unwell again and was not allowed to travel.

Little Molly was an hour away from her mum in Cyprus, and the rest of her family were back in the UK Credit: Bethany Cleathero

Reflecting on the past few weeks, Bethany said the whole process had been an absolute “rollercoaster”.

She said: “We had been trying to get an emergency travel document - but there was little to no urgency to get them.

“We managed to have contact with our MP who pushed it with the Home Office and within 24 hours we had our documents.

“It was almost a little bit too late though as Molly was then not able to fly, as she'd taken a bit of a turn for the worse.

“We went to see Molly and realised there were a lot more tubes and cannulas.

“We were told she had something called a tension pneumothorax and had to have a chest drain fitted.”

The parents were told Molly would need an operation to help stabilise her condition but the language barrier made it very difficult to understand exactly what was going on.

Jan said their whole experience following Molly’s birth had made him feel “numb”.

He said: “It's hard to find the words to describe what we're going through. It was difficult at first having to leave my wife here.

“Coming back, finally being able to see her and touch her and be here for her - but it's just getting harder and harder and harder every single day.

“We have two other children at home who are starting to feel a bit lost.”

He added that the Home Office and passport officer were "nothing short of useless".

"We never in our wildest dreams expected to have to wait all this time to be able to get emergency documents to get Molly home.

"If these documents had come when they should have done last week, Molly would have been home and given the best possible care from the NHS."

The family’s local MP, Richard Foord, previously contacted the Home Office in an attempt to speed up the process after hearing the family’ struggle.

He said it was “shocking” that the system was “so dysfunctional” and called for a “shake up” to ensure the process was simplified.

The Liberal Democrat added: “I hope baby Molly will be well enough to be brought home to Devon soon.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said: “We are providing assistance to a British family in Cyprus and have issued a Travel Document to them.”