Yorkshire family's fight for care support after death of baby Charlie

0
Have your say

There can be no greater loss than that of a child, to walk out of the labour ward empty handed.

Read more-> The beautiful way Stanley Metcalf's school is helping his friends cope with their grief

Carrie-Ann Curtis from the Charlie's Angel Foundation, who lost her son to a rare condition called Potter's Syndrome and struggled to access support after his death.

Carrie-Ann Curtis from the Charlie's Angel Foundation, who lost her son to a rare condition called Potter's Syndrome and struggled to access support after his death.

Read more-> Yorkshire teenager opens up about painful battle with endometriosis

Yet to Carrie-Ann Curtis, there was no support. She was sent home with a brown envelope, filled with leaflets on how to look after herself.

Her baby son Charlie, born with a rare disorder called Potter's Syndrome, lived for just 19 hours.

She was left numb after his death, struggling to find someone to talk to. But six years on, as the only bereavement centre of its kind opens in the region, Charlie's legacy prevails.

Carrie-Ann Curtis has campaigned for years to help raise funds for the Charlie's Angel Foundation which officially opens its first centre today.

Carrie-Ann Curtis has campaigned for years to help raise funds for the Charlie's Angel Foundation which officially opens its first centre today.

And it is opening the floodgates, to thousands of families seeking support.

"The hospital were fantastic, after giving birth," said Miss Curtis, 26, from Leeds. "But there was no after-care at all. I was just blank, for weeks.

"We all felt, as a family, that we couldn't talk about it as we didn't want to upset each other. I needed to talk to somebody, about everything.

"You never get over the loss of a child, you just learn to live with it," she adds. "We always feel that there's somebody missing.

Carrie-Ann Curtis, centre, with Chloe Hill, Ruth Curtis, Sam Key and Clive Key at the new Charlie's Angels Centre Foundation in Leeds.

Carrie-Ann Curtis, centre, with Chloe Hill, Ruth Curtis, Sam Key and Clive Key at the new Charlie's Angels Centre Foundation in Leeds.

"We wanted to improve things. While we started with baby loss, we found people who had lost toddlers, or adult children. And children are children, no matter their age.

"We set up Charlie's Angels to provide that people care. It's grown, from a tiny office in a room at my mum's house, to something amazing."

Charlie's Angel Foundation

Charlie was born on December 29, 2012. Miss Curtis, having been warned at her 20-week scan, always knew there was a strong likelihood he wouldn't survive.

There was an army of doctors present for his birth, but there was nothing that could be done. Charlie, wrapped in a blanket, was passed to his mother for his final minutes.

After his death, Miss Curtis had approached her GP for help, but all that was available was mental health support with a lengthy waiting list.

After an intervention by Leeds MP Hilary Benn, she was offered counselling. But there were no midwife visits, no bereavement support.

The Charlie's Angel Foundation, set up by her family, is a bereavement service run by Miss Curtis' mother Sam Key, stepfather Clive Key, and step-mother Ruth Curtis.

It is funded by donations, by families it has helped, and from fundraisers and fashion shows.

The hope was always to create a centre in Yorkshire and today, having helped 46,000 people across the region, it formally launches in Leeds with support from 35 counselors.

"It's starting conversations about baby loss, and more people are speaking out," said Mrs Curtis, 52. "It just wasn't talked about in the past.

"There are so many people, coming forward now. This centre is Charlie's legacy. In an ideal world, Charlie would be here with us. But this is something he has changed."

Region-wide support

The centre is filled with bright counselling rooms, each named after a child's family that the charity has supported. One is decorated with an Arsenal theme, another with rainbows.

As I am shown around, there is a knock at the door. It is the fireman who came to complete the electrics check yesterday, returning with a TV and an Xbox he wants to donate.

His daughter has experienced baby loss, he says, and he wants to help if he can.

There are countless families across the region struggling, says the founders of Charlie's Angels, and they see between 20 and 40 a week, from as far away as Rotherham and York.

The charity's first sibling event will be held later this year, while Mr Keys is setting up a 'men's club' for bereaved fathers.

"We support anybody that we can, anybody that needs it," adds Mrs Key, 49. "And we believe it should be free.

"Sadly, some babies and children do die. Our service is always going to be needed.

The Charlie's Angel Bereavement Centre in Hunslet is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering home visits, counselling and a drop-in service.