Good­bye my princess

A bout of flu killed my tod­dler at Christ­mas

Chat - - Chat come on in! - By Mandy Brad­bury, 33, from Knutsford

As my daugh­ter So­phie blew out the three can­dles on her birth­day cake I clapped and cheered. It was 12 De­cem­ber 2014.

How had my baby grown up so quickly?

With pink and blue birth­day bal­loons up, Christ­mas on its way and a house full of chil­dren, I couldn’t be hap­pier.

‘Shall we let her open the presents now?’ my part­ner Si­mon, 38, grinned.

Si­mon wasn’t So­phie’s dad, but he loved her to bits.

Tear­ing at the pa­per, So­phie squealed with de­light at the pushchair we’d bought her.

‘Thank you, Mummy,’ she said as I hugged her tightly.

My lit­tle princess.

Sud­denly, So­phie’s big sis­ter Chloe, then 5, grabbed her hand. ‘Let’s play!’ she beamed. I felt so lucky. My girls were my world.

Four days later, though, So­phie was un­der the weather with flu-like symp­toms of a high tem­per­a­ture and headache. She couldn’t even keep down Calpol.

At 8pm, I put her to bed and hoped sleep would help.

But, check­ing on her at 9.30pm, So­phie didn’t stir.

‘Si­mon!’ I screamed. ‘She’s not breath­ing.’

As Si­mon tried to re­sus­ci­tate her, I stood watch­ing, frozen in shock. ‘I think she’s died!’ I said. Sud­denly, Chloe, who shared the room, woke up.

‘What’s wrong?’ she pan­icked, sob­bing. ‘I want to hug So­phie.’

In­stead I scooped her into my arms, and took her down­stairs, away from the hor­ror that was un­fold­ing. She was so scared. And so was I. The paramedics ar­rived, and, for 45 min­utes they tried their best to re­sus­ci­tate So­phie.

‘Please, God…’ I prayed silently.

But So­phie needed to be rushed to hos­pi­tal.

There, I hoped we’d have a mir­a­cle.

But then I heard the words, ‘We’re so sorry...’ I sobbed, dis­be­liev­ingly, as doc­tors ex­plained So­phie had been suf­fer­ing from the flu.

She’d vom­ited in her sleep, then died af­ter in­hal­ing it.

My baby was gone.

Ar­riv­ing home with­out So­phie felt like a sur­real night­mare.

Her pink and blue party bal­loons still hung on the walls, birth­day cake was left un­eaten.

‘How did this hap­pen?’ I said to Si­mon, in­cred­u­lous.

Just days be­fore, our girl had been so full of life.

The house was too full of sad mem­o­ries, so we moved to be closer to my fam­ily in Mac­cles­field. Christ­mas was just days away, but I wanted to crawl into bed and never come out again.

‘We have to fo­cus on Chloe,’ Si­mon said.

I was too up­set to ex­plain it to her, so my sis­ter told her that So­phie was now liv­ing with the an­gels.

Chloe was con­fused and griev­ing, too.

We did our best to give her a good Christ­mas. But So­phie’s ab­sence was over­whelm­ing.

Fi­nally, an au­topsy con­firmed that So­phie had died from flu and re­lated

Check­ing on her at 9.30pm, So­phie didn’t stir…

res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems.

And I’d thought she just had the snif­fles…

In 2014, the flu vac­cine wasn’t of­fered to young chil­dren. I only wish it had been. So­phie was buried at the end of Jan­uary.

The church in Mac­cles­field was packed to cel­e­brate her short life.

‘I’m not sure I can do this,’ I told Si­mon be­fore the fu­neral.

‘We have to say our good­byes,’ he said.

He was right. But see­ing the tiny, pink cof­fin, cov­ered in stick­ers of dinosaurs, felt like a punch to the gut.

And when the song Let It Go, from Frozen played, my emo­tions over­came me.

It was her favourite song. I could hear her gig­gling away in my head.

How would I ever be­gin to let her go?

Over those next weeks, the world felt a dark, bleak place.

I clung to Si­mon. And, just five weeks af­ter So­phie’s fu­neral, I dis­cov­ered I was preg­nant.

Si­mon and I were thrilled to be hav­ing our first child to­gether. It gave us some­thing good to fo­cus on. But as my belly grew, I found my­self re­mem­ber­ing how ex­cited I’d been car­ry­ing So­phie. I missed her so much… In Septem­ber 2015, our lit­tle boy Toby was born – a gor­geous, gig­gling mir­a­cle, amidst all the aw­ful heartache.

We’re now liv­ing in Knutsford, tak­ing one day at a time.

Al­though I’m learn­ing to live with the pain of los­ing my child, it’ll al­ways be with me.

I have Toby, now 2, and Chloe, 8, to con­sider. And they’re both so ex­cited about Christ­mas this year.

On what would’ve been So­phie’s 6th birth­day, we’ll have a fam­ily meal and re­mem­ber her es­pe­cially. At Christ­mas, we visit her grave, too, tell her we love her.

I’ll also make sure the kids and I get a flu jab this year. Some peo­ple say there are risks, but if it stops one mum enduring the heartache I have, it’s worth it.

My beau­ti­ful girl should be look­ing for­ward to cel­e­brat­ing her sixth Christ­mas.

In­stead she’s with the an­gels.

I’ll make sure the kids and I get a flu jab this year

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