I saw my hus­band and baby both die

Sunday Mirror - - PUZZLES -

It was Valen­tine’s Day when my hus­band Colin had surgery to re­place the mi­tral valve in his heart.

A week later, I found out I was preg­nant with our sec­ond child and, with Colin hope­fully on the mend, it looked like we had ev­ery­thing to look for­ward to.

But our hap­pi­ness was marred when Colin, an ac­counts man­ager, started to feel un­well. You could hear the re­place­ment valve loudly tick­ing in his chest. Then in May, 2008 – three months af­ter surgery – Colin opened the cur­tains in our bed­room and fell back on the bed say­ing he couldn’t get any air in.

Within min­utes, he was vom­it­ing up blood and our three­year-old son Cameron saw it all.

My hus­band died hours later. He had de­vel­oped an in­fec­tion around his heart and the valve had come away.

He was just 29. I was left a wid­owed mum, three months preg­nant. The im­pend­ing birth gave me some­thing to hang on to and our daugh­ter Gabrielle was born in Oc­to­ber 2008.

She seemed healthy but four days later was di­ag­nosed with hy­poplas­tic left heart syn­drome, mean­ing only half her heart was work­ing. Gabrielle needed a trans­plant but was born weigh­ing six pounds and she just wasn’t strong enough. She was taken to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hos­pi­tal where sur­geons tried to in­sert a bal­loon in her aor­tic valve to give her a bet­ter chance. But my beau­ti­ful girl, who looked per­fect on the out­side, was not get­ting any bet­ter and was los­ing more weight. Doc­tors said there was very lit­tle they could do. I couldn’t be­lieve it. “Why me? Why is this hap­pen­ing again?” I cried. Gabrielle was taken to De­rian House Chil­dren’s Hospice in Chor­ley, Lancs, to die. I dressed her in a lit­tle pink baby­gro for the jour­ney. Gabrielle sur­vived that night but passed away on De­cem­ber 18. She was less than nine weeks old. It’s hard to put into words the depths of my grief at los­ing both of them within seven months of each other. Get­ting out of bed each morn­ing took every ounce of strength I could muster. The weeks and months that fol­lowed our dou­ble tragedy were dark. Only my love for Cameron and help from my fam­ily kept me go­ing. There were times when I wanted to die.

Three years af­ter he lost them, Cameron was di­ag­nosed with a sim­i­lar valve problem to his late fa­ther and might also need surgery one day.

It’s so tough but I’m de­ter­mined to keep my boy fit and healthy to make sure he stays well. We’ve al­ready lost so much.

He’s now 12, loves sport and runs about with his friends, al­though he has OCD and has thoughts about death af­ter all he went through.

I’ve been blessed to find hap­pi­ness again with an old school friend, Tom.

He un­der­stands the grief I’ve suf­fered – he lost his daugh­ter when she was seven weeks old due to a brain stem problem.

We’re now mar­ried and have a four-year-old daugh­ter called Ava.

There’s not a day goes by, though, when I don’t think of Colin and Gabrielle.

I’d urge every adult to take up the of­fer of the new heart checks be­ing of­fered. Early de­tec­tion is vi­tal when it comes to treat­ment.

I hope the next step is hav­ing all new­borns rou­tinely scanned for any heart de­fi­cien­cies too.

We need to save fam­i­lies from heartache wher­ever we can.

GRACE MACASKILL

CLOSE Claire is de­ter­mined to keep Cameron fit and well BEAU­TI­FUL Gabrielle died at two months LOV­ING DAD Hol­i­day snap of heart vic­tim Colin

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