When fans of Rotherham, Sheffield United and Barnsley came together to welcome battling Bodhi Reed to the Sheffield Wednesday family
It was the tweet that made the result of a South Yorkshire derby win for Sheffield Wednesday seem utterly insignificant and that – momentarily at least – bound the region together regardless of football loyalties.
Holed up at the Jessop Wing Hospital in Sheffield with his hand placed on the incubator of his one-day old son, Elliot Reed punched the air in delight with the news Lee Gregory had put his beloved Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 up away at Rotherham United.
One-day-old Bodhi soon became a star of social media when his proud-as-punch dad posted to celebrate his first Owls win with his little boy; “Starting him young showing him the score in ICU,” he wrote. “Already asking me for a Lee Gregory shirt at 24 hours old!”
Elliot, 29, and his partner Francesca, 25, were taken aback by the dozens of messages of support they received from football fans across the spectrum of South Yorkshire football. It received nearly 700 likes from all over the country.
Gregory himself got in touch to say he would send Bodhi the shirt once he was allowed out of hospital.
The couple had been through tragedy before. After a miscarriage in 2019, Francesca gave birth to who what would have been Bodhi’s older brother, Axel, who was born last year. Having been born prematurely, Axel passed away after half an hour.
The messages of social media support gave the couple solace as stories poured in of premature babies who have grown up to be fit and strong.
Unaware of the world around him and battling the challenges of being born 15 weeks short of a full term, it provided Bodhi a memorable start to life in the Sheffield Wednesday family.
“I couldn't get iFollow or Radio Sheffield because of the signal in the hospital, so I was relying on tweets really,” Elliot told The Star.
“I had Rotherham fans that day sending me messages that day, which was incredible. One of them had been through a similar thing and was offering me advice and support, he sent me a photo of his lad in a Rotherham kit at two or three years old now. That was amazing.
“United fans have been amazing, I've had loads of messages from across the city, Barnsley fans, everyone.”
Happily, less than three weeks ago, little battler Bodhi was able to head home with his mum and dad for the first time. It didn’t take Elliot long to get him all dressed up in his very first Wednesday strip. As proud fathers go, he’s up there with the proudest.
That Lee Gregory shirt is on the way and will be framed pride of place in Bodhi’s nursery.
“Wednesday fans have been amazing,” he said. “When we were struggling it it cheered us up to get these messages from people I didn’t even know.
“We were told in June that there was a good chance of Bodhi coming early, so we had braced ourselves for the worst.
“He got to 26 weeks and they told us it could be imminent, they literally said they didn't know whether it would be in 25 minutes or full term. He ended up arriving at 27 weeks and it was terrifying.
“The threshold for survival is only about 70 per cent chance at that time and with our history you can understand how much we were worried.
“If everything ends up being OK, they look to let them out home with the parents when they get to a full term, so about 40 weeks. I’m so happy to say he's home.”
Piling holiday allowance on top of his paternity period, Elliot spent a long six weeks by Bodhi’s side at Jessops alongside Francesca, leaving only for the occasional release of a Wednesday home match.
A passionate home-and-away supporter, it was those chilly afternoons and evenings on the Hillsborough terraces that Elliot credits with ‘keeping him sane’ during some of the most stressful experiences a parent can go up against.
“There was no chance I was heading all over the country just in case,” he said. “But my missus did encourage me to get to the home games just to have that bit of normality and to get my head out of the situation.
“The lads I sit with have been really good with me, all the way through making sure I'm alright, checking in with me all the time and all that.
“That hour and a half there, screaming at Wednesday and cheering them on, it's got me through as daft as it sounds.
“Wednesday fans and fans of all the other clubs have helped get me through it all, whether that be the home games and having that release or the away games sat there following and getting these nice messages of support. They got me through it.
“These are often people I don't know. It seems uncommon when it happens to you [a premature birth], but it's obviously not. And there's help out there for anyone going through this sort of thing.
“We need to plod on now until he's a bit older so we can take him to his first game! That will be a special moment.”
Wednesday sees the marking of World Prematurity Day, a directive that aims to engage conversation among those who have been touched by this subject.
It’s driven in part by UK-based charity Bliss, who offer help and support to families of babies born premature or sick.
A Bliss spokesperson said: “There are many parts of neonatal care that can go unspoken; from the overwhelming sounds of the unit to discovering how strong your baby is for the first time. It can make a big difference to read other people’s stories.
“That’s why we’re asking parents, family members, friends and healthcare professionals – anyone touched by the needs of premature babies – to share your #MyNeonatalStory and show families in neonatal care they’re not alone.”