Mum’s tragic warn­ing: My only daugh­ter is gone for­ever

Ca­role Fowkes, 50, can’t stop tor­tur­ing her­self

Woman's Own - - HELLO & WELCOME -

As my phone started ring­ing, I glanced down at the screen and smiled. It was my daugh­ter, Alexan­dra. ‘Hi Mum, just ring­ing for a catch up – and to tell you I’m com­ing home for the week!’ she laughed. It was a call I al­ways looked for­ward to since Alexan­dra had moved to Durham Univer­sity to study maths al­most three years ear­lier. We’d al­ways been close. As my only child, Alexan­dra was my friend, as well as my daugh­ter.

Her dad, Tony, 56, and I had split up years ear­lier, but she got on well with my part­ner, Steve, 49, and still saw plenty of her own fa­ther.

In her first year at univer­sity, Alexan­dra flour­ished. She was en­joy­ing her in­de­pen­dence and, as a so­cia­ble girl, she was mak­ing lots of friends, too, in­clud­ing meet­ing a boyfriend.

Each time Alexan­dra came home, for the Christ­mas hol­i­days or just for a week­end, her eyes would shine as she chat­ted away about stu­dent life.

She even spent some of her spare time tu­tor­ing maths to GCSE pupils who needed help. ‘You’re mak­ing such a dif­fer­ence,’ I told her proudly.

Only, dur­ing her sec­ond year, I started to no­tice a change in Alexan­dra. She’d some­times cry when it came to trav­el­ling back to Durham, and her re­la­tion­ship broke down, which left her feel­ing lost.

‘I’m a bit anx­ious,’ Alexan­dra ad­mit­ted to me one day over the phone. She said she was ner­vous about cer­tain so­cial sit­u­a­tions, es­pe­cially with peo­ple she didn’t know.

Her usual self

She’d met a new boyfriend by now, Matt, and for a while she was so happy, but even­tu­ally the anx­i­ety crept back in. She was pre­scribed anti-de­pres­sants, and within just a few weeks, they seemed to be work­ing. Her mood had lifted sig­nif­i­cantly. As she moved into her fi­nal year, things seemed much bet­ter. When she came home for hol­i­days, she was her usual, happy self, ar­rang­ing brunches with me and even in­tro­duc­ing the fam­ily to Matt. ‘I’m think­ing of spend­ing a year in Canada af­ter I grad­u­ate,’ she said. It felt good to know that she was think­ing seriously about her fu­ture.

Then, on 15 March 2018, Alexan­dra texted me to ar­range her visit home for Easter. I went to bed with a check­list of jobs I wanted to tick off be­fore she re­turned. I’d stock the fridge with her favourite food and I’d bet­ter have the wash­ing ma­chine ready for her laun­dry, I smiled to my­self.

Only, in the early hours of the next morn­ing, Steve and I were awo­ken by

‘We were awo­ken by a bang­ing on the front door’

bang­ing on the front door. Leap­ing out of bed, I had a hor­ri­ble sense of fore­bod­ing. No-one pays house vis­its at this time, I thought. When I answered, I was greeted by two police of­fi­cers and Alexan­dra’s fa­ther, Tony.

‘She’s done it,’ he said, his face pale. ‘Done what?’ I replied, con­fused.

As Tony broke down, an of­fi­cer stepped in to ex­plain. Alexan­dra had been found hanging in her univer­sity bed­room – Matt was the one who dis­cov­ered her. She still had a pulse – just – so he’d called an am­bu­lance and she’d been taken to hos­pi­tal, but her con­di­tion was ex­tremely se­ri­ous. There was no note, no rea­son why she would have done such a thing.

‘I don’t un­der­stand,’ I gasped, tears stream­ing down my cheeks. It didn’t make any sense. Why would Alexan­dra try to take her own life? I’d only spoken to her hours ear­lier – she was look­ing for­ward to com­ing home. I don’t re­mem­ber chang­ing out of my py­ja­mas or get­ting into Steve’s car, but be­fore I re­alised what was hap­pen­ing, Tony, Steve and I were on our way to the Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal of North Durham, 170 miles away. When we ar­rived three hours later, doc­tors ush­ered us into a pri­vate room. ‘I’m afraid there’s not much more we can do,’ one said. I stared ahead in shock, tears trick­ling down my cheeks as I thought about how I would say good­bye to my daugh­ter. I felt con­fused and so dev­as­tated. Then, we were led into the room where she was be­ing treated. De­spite be­ing sur­rounded by ma­chines and wires, Alexan­dra still looked so peace­ful. I ran over to her, clutch­ing her hand in mine. ‘Oh Alexan­dra, why?’ I sobbed. We were told to say good­bye to her, then the three of us re­treated, sob­bing, to the fam­ily room, try­ing to process it all.

Say­ing good­bye

Only, an hour later, a con­sul­tant came into the room. ‘Her blood pres­sure is get­ting slightly stronger,’ he said. ‘We’d like to mon­i­tor her for the next 72 hours.’ He told me it was un­likely she would make a re­cov­ery, but I couldn’t help but cling onto what lit­tle hope I had left.

We went back to sit by her bed­side and I brushed her hair and chat­ted to her about silly things – fam­ily gos­sip, the weather – any­thing I could think of.

Over the next few days, I stayed by Alexan­dra’s side, only tak­ing a break to get some­thing to eat, go to the toi­let or take a short nap. But de­spite the flicker of hope given to us by the med­i­cal team, I started to come to terms with the fact that my daugh­ter might never wake up.

On Mon­day 18 March, a con­sul­tant con­firmed Alexan­dra was brain dead, and it was time to say our fi­nal good­byes. ‘I love you so much,’ I whis­pered to her.

We didn’t watch the life sup­port ma­chine get turned off, since Alexan­dra had signed her­self up as an or­gan donor. I strug­gled with that a lot, but I knew I had to re­spect her de­ci­sion.

Alexan­dra’s funeral was held in April. More than 50 stu­dents from the univer­sity came, and de­spite my des­per­ate sad­ness, it made me feel so proud that she had been so pop­u­lar.

De­spite all the sup­port I was given, over the next few weeks, I found my­self just want­ing to be alone, wan­der­ing from room to room with no pur­pose. ‘I need a fo­cus,’ I told Steve.

In Alexan­dra’s name, Durham Univer­sity set up a men­tal health aware­ness cam­paign for stu­dents to pro­mote aware­ness of anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and the risk of sui­cide. But to keep the cam­paign go­ing, we needed money. ‘Let’s do a spon­sored sky dive,’ one of my friends sug­gested. An­other two agreed.

‘I need to do it with them,’ I told Steve as I re­vealed the plan. ‘But you hate fly­ing – and you hate heights!’ he said. It was true, they were my two main fears, but I had to do this – for Alexan­dra.

So on 10 Novem­ber 2018, I com­pleted the sky dive in Sib­son Air­field in Peter­bor­ough and raised more than £2,000 for the cam­paign. It was one of the most ter­ri­fy­ing things I’ve ever done, but I knew noth­ing could ever be as hard as los­ing my daugh­ter.

Now, I’m go­ing to start train­ing to be a coun­sel­lor, and I’d love to tour schools and univer­si­ties to talk about men­tal health. My daugh­ter showed hardly any signs that she was strug­gling, and I spend hours comb­ing back over ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion we had to see if I missed any­thing. In many ways, I blame my­self for not notic­ing. But deep down, I know there’s noth­ing I could have done. And that’s what I have to keep telling my­self, if only so I can get out of bed in the morn­ing.

‘There was no note, no rea­son why she did it’

Alexan­dra was Ca­role’s only child Alexan­dra had been a happy, so­cia­ble girl

So close: Ca­role and Alexan­dra were friends as well as mother and daugh­ter

Ca­role did a sky dive to sup­port a men­tal health aware­ness cam­paign

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.