Issue 25 (!) of The Beestonian is out today in paper form, or if you’re all hi-tech and regard physical publications as ‘dead wood media’, you can a) read it here b) you’re a bit of an eejit.
Work on Issue 26 has began in earnest, and yesterday at noon I went into Beeston to conduct an interview, one I was slightly apprehensive about. An hour later I emerged, notepad duly scribbed in, feeling wet of eye and lumpy of throat, which is odd as I didn’t have my contact lenses in or a larynx lodged lozenge. The apprehension I had gone in with had been transmuted into a mix of awe and pride at one couple’s work, and how amazing a community – us, Beeston – had reacted and pulled together to help. I spent the rest of the day, head abuzz, and that has not abated. So while I would usually write up the story for the Beestonian, and see it roll off the presses late next month, I’ve decided I have to get my thoughts out now.
In December last year, Beestonians Michelle and Richard Daniels gave birth to a stillborn baby, Emily. I can’t even begin to imagine how horriffic that would be, but it happens to around 4,000 families each year in the UK.It happened to my own grandmother around 60 years ago, and haunted her since. Back then, in less enlightened times, she was forced to wet nurse a new born whose mother had died in birth.Things have got better, but as Richard and Michelle were to discover, there are still issues.
While the staff at the QMC maternity ward were reportedly fantastic with their care both as an inpatient and outpatient, there was something that made the situation even worse, compounding the already staggering amounts of grief the couple felt. Instead of having an area to grieve away from the maternity ward, bereaved families are left on the ward, the crying of new-borns and the empty crib only serving to add extra sting. While grieving, the sounds of labour and the resultant joy of healthy babies born to jubilant parents rang out around them.The horror of that is unimaginable. Hence my pre-interview nerves.
I meet Richard at his office in Beeston. He’s extremely personable, instantly likeable and is quick to offer me a hot drink. If you didn’t know what had happened just a few months ago to the poor chap, you’d not guess. Yet there is a noticable sadness about him too, a tired, drawn look that occasionally flashes over his face. Yet their is a more dominant air about him, and one that is astonishing. Richard has a look of intent and drive that is testament to some incredible work.
Desperate to find a positive in the awfulness of their experience, they decided it was time for the QMC to have a dedicated bereavement suite on the maternity ward. They set a target of £25,000, with the intention of using some of this money to fund a party at a local children’s hospice on what would have been Emily’s first birthday. ‘Our first aim was to get 100 likes on Facebook’ Richard tells me ‘It shot up to 4,000 incredibly fast, the response was amazing’ .
Word swifty got out over Beeston, and locals and businesses came forward in droves to offer help. Beeston BID made it their nominated charity, Nottingham Forest, a club Richard has supported all his life, offered to hold fundraisers. Thorntons donated a hamper. The guy who runs the Happy Daze shop on Wollaton Road offered to do a fun run. Both Tesco and Sainsburys offered support with fundraising bag-packs, collections, and events. 50 people will be running the Robin Hood half-marathon this year for the fund. A gala dinner has been planned, with very special guests, in the Autumn. The list is endless, and as such, just a few weeks in setting up, and still waiting for the Charity Commission to give them a charity register number, around £10,500 has already been raised. ‘
‘It’s not just companies. Every day we get a knock on the door with someone offering to help. We’ve had old ladies appear asking to donate directly. Strangers have offered the most incredible things, it’s been a blur. We never expeected such a response’. His voice breaks slightly ‘I grew up round here, and have lived here all my life, and know it’s a good place with good people, but this has really bought that home to me’. As if to prove the point, he jumps up after seeing someone pass the window and runs out to say thank you for some unspecified help they’ve offered. He returns, apologising profusely at this interruption ‘So many people to thank’ he says.
Richard and Michelle have, in a very short space of time, managed to create something wonderful out of the most bleak events that can befall a parent. While nothing can ever replace or make up for the loss of Emily, they are determined to seize some positives. ‘Somebody, sady, will either have a stillborn or postnatal death on that ward int he future. If we can make that experience a little less painful for them, then some good has come of this’. With the generosity, spirit and sense of community that this town is rich in, some light shines from a very dark place. I doff my cap to Richard and Michelle for their tireless work, and to this town I am so proud to be a part of.