Birth mother of Scottish footballer Dominic Matteo who put him up for adoption when she was 17 recalls reading about his life-threatening brain tumour online with no idea he was her son
- Ex-Liverpool and Leeds defender Dominic will appear on ITV’s Long Lost Family
- Searched for his birth mother after a brain tumour left him ‘fighting for his life’
- He was reunited with birth mum Margaret after she gave him up at the age of 17
- Said it was ‘surreal’ to discover Dominic was her son after seeing him play on TV
The birth mother of footballer Dominic Matteo says it was ‘surreal’ to be reunited with her son after reading about him online with no idea he was her child.
The Scottish footballer, 47, was put up for adoption as a baby and decided to contact ITV’s Long Lost Family in search of his mother following his battle with a rare, cancerous brain tumour in 2019.
Appearing on This Morning today, his mother Margaret said that before being reunited, she had watched him on TV and read about his life-threatening brain tumour with no idea he was her son, who was named Dominic by his adoptive parents.
‘That is surreal that I had actually heard of him,’ said Margaret. ‘I have my A-level Italian so always tuned into Italian names. I’d seen him on TV and I actually had read about the brain tumour online without knowing it was Dominic. ‘
Ex-Liverpool and Leeds defender Dominic Matteo, pictured on ITV’s Long Lost Family’s, went in search of his birth mother after a brain tumour left him ‘fighting for his life’
Appearing on This Morning today, his mother Margaret (right) says that before being reunited Dominic, she had watched him on TV and read about his life-threatening brain tumour
Margaret was just 17 when she fell pregnant in the 1970s and says giving up her child was the toughest decision she’s ever had to make.
‘I was at school I was very young and didn’t have a job,’ she said. ‘I realised this was the best thing when the adoption society told me about Dominic’s parents and what kind of people they were.
‘It was the most difficult decision of my life, it was a terrible grief having to go through that, but it’s turned out so well.’
Speaking of the moment she was told ITV had found her son, she went on: ‘It was great news, it was absolutely fantastic.
Left, Dominic as a baby sat on his adoptive mother’s knee with his older brother and adoptive father. Right, Dominic at home as a child
‘I had thought about trying to trace him, but didn’t want to intrude and I totally admire Dominic’s parents for everything they have done. They’re amazing people and so is Dominic.’
The Scotland defender was taken seriously ill in November 2019 and underwent life-saving seven-hour surgery to remove an ependymoma brain tumour.
Describing his symptoms he said: ‘A bit of a headache, my eye sight a bit was blurred which is unusual for me.
‘It just felt like as the days were going on things were going downhill a little bit, but being me I just kept working.’
‘That is surreal that I had actually heard of him’, said Margaret as she appeared on the show with her son today
The Scotland defender, pictured on the show today with wife Jess, was taken seriously ill in November 2019 and underwent life-saving seven-hour surgery to remove an ependymoma brain tumour
He was due to fly to Singapore but cancelled the trip after being told by his doctor that a scan had become available.
‘Someone was looking out for me there, definitely,’ he said. ‘We went and had the scan and found out there was a massive mass in my brain, which was so unexpected and I just went down hill from that point so quickly.’
He added: ‘I’m so thankful for the help I have had, the NHS, doctors, everyone did their bit there and to get down last minute was life changing for me.
WHAT ARE EPENDYMOMAS?
Ependymomas is a type of brain tumour made up of cancer cells and tissue found in the brain called ependymal cells.
These cells are found lining the fluid–filled spaces in and around the brain and their job is to produce spinal fluid.
The tumours grow rapidly and are relatively rare. There are approximately 200 cases diagnosed in the US each year and less than 50 in Britain.
At least a quarter of diagnoses happen before the age of two.
‘If I had been on that flight it could have been a hell of a lot worse so for me. I’m just very, very thankful that happened.’
In April 2020, Dominic revealed he had been given the all clear, thanking the staff at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital on Twitter for ‘saving my life’.
In a preview clip of the show, the footballer revealed how he hoped to find his birth mother after a brain tumour left him ‘fighting for his life’.
‘The only thing I ever wanted to be was a footballer. I was very lucky, even played for my country’, he said.
‘I’ve had a great life, but I never thought I’d end up with a brain tumour. I was fighting for my life, this time last year.
‘I got to a place where I was just thinking about meeting my birth mother. When you’re close to your life being over, it just becomes more important.
‘I’m not sure we’d have had this conversation before my illness, I’m not sure, I’m not sure, but it’s made me think completely differently about life.’
Dominic made his senior Liverpool debut in October 1993 and made 155 appearances in seven years before joining Leeds in 2000. He was a regular at Elland Road, playing 146 times in four years.
He helped David O’Leary’s side into the Champions League semi-finals in 2001, scoring a famous goal against AC Milan in the San Siro on the way.
But he was part of the side that was relegated in 2004 before moving on to Blackburn and then Stoke before hanging up his boots in 2009.
He was capped six times by Scotland despite having earned Under 21 caps for England.
Long Lost Family returns tonight at 9pm on ITV.
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