Parents in Claire House’s first Christmas TV campaign say charity helped create memories they’ll cherish forever
3 months ago
The parents at the heart of Claire House Children’s Hospice’s first festive TV campaign have told how the charity gave them a treasured Christmas to remember with their son.
Emma and Dan Garner whose baby, Thomas, died aged only six months, said it was a difficult and emotional time – but thanks to Claire House they have ‘memories that we’ll cherish forever’.
Student nurse Emma, 38, says:
“We made cards with Thomas’s handprints and footprints on, which we have out every year as a way of keeping him with us at Christmas.
“We made Christmas wall art with Thomas’s feet as holly, and the Claire House team which came to us made jewellery out of his handprints – a necklace for me and a keyring for Dan.
“I even got to hold Thomas for the first time on Boxing Day, almost two months after he was born, because they helped to make it happen. I sat staring at him for four hours and it was one of the best moments of my life. It was incredible. You talk about Christmas wish lists, and that was mine.”
“We will never get that time again with him. But, because of Claire House, we have special memories of that one Christmastime we spent together.
“And when your child isn’t here anymore and memories are all you’ve got, they are more important than ever.”
Thomas was the second son of Emma and husband Dan, 39, who runs his own IT business, and with whom she has three other boys, Henry, seven; George, four, and Oliver, two.
The couple knew from 20-week pregnancy scans that Thomas had an exceptionally rare congenital heart defect, but it wasn’t known how he would be when was born on October 27, 2017.
“He cried and was breathing, so I had hope,” says Emma. “But he was a poorly baby.”
Thomas was nine days old when he was transferred from St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester where the couple live, to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where he underwent a series of operations.
“Thomas had open heart surgery, and then bowel, chest, and lung surgery as a result of complications and the often-traumatic effects of intensive care.”
And it was at Alder Hey they met the team from Wirral-based Claire House.
“They allowed us to take time out of a clinic setting and, as much as you could, to normalise the time we had with our baby.”
“In intensive care you can’t hold your baby, you can’t play with your baby, you can’t sing songs or do anything you’d normally do at home, but Claire House made that happen.
“It was never going to be normal, but they made it so we could have togetherness.
“And especially for us at that first and only Christmas time with Thomas, they helped us make memories that we’ll cherish forever…
“They even arranged for a trip for me, Dan and Henry to Blue Planet Aquarium so we could spend time together there with him.”
Claire House was also there for the family when Thomas sadly passed away in April 2018.
“Thomas’s heart was repaired as much as a heart can be, but unfortunately six months of ventilation caused him to have chronic ventilator-induced lung disease.
“He had sepsis numerous times and the last time he couldn’t come round. We were left with the horrendous decision to withdraw his care,”
“But again, Claire House talked us through the process and prepared us to think about what our options were. If we’d faced that completely out of the blue we wouldn’t have been able to focus our attention on giving Thomas the love and comfort he so needed from us.
“People talk about a ‘good death’ and a ‘bad death’, and Claire House allowed us to give Thomas a good one.
“We brought him to rest in one of the hospice’s Butterfly suites; we turned up as a shell of the people we are and we were given a home.
“We bathed Thomas and even held him for the first time without wires attached. We didn’t have to think about the outside world, and they gave us help with everything from registering his death to planning his funeral.
“We were given space to have photos taken with him, and to come to terms with our new reality. It’s an amazing place.”
“I think very few people can imagine what it’s like to lose a child, unless you’ve gone through it. It’s nothing you can prepare yourself for.”
Emma says: “By giving to Claire House at Christmas it means more families are kept together in some way or another, and it means more magical memories can be made.
“That’s why, for me, it’s a privilege to be able to support them like they supported us, and to have the chance to share Thomas’s legacy.
“I’m proud to share his story and what Claire House did for us.”