A bereaved mum says signing up for a charity fundraiser is a fitting way to keep her baby son’s memory alive. Rebekah Howlett, husband Philip and sons Ben, ten, and James, six, are taking part in this year’s Norwich Bubble Rush, being organised by East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
They are raising funds for the charity as it supported them following the death of Rebekah and Philip’s second son, Josh, in April 2015. He was just four days old. The couple made memory items and received help with funeral arrangements.
Rebekah had counselling for over a year and they attended a monthly bereavement support group together. Now, eight years on, the couple are keen to give something back by signing up for a day of fundraising fun. EACH’s foam-filled Norwich Bubble Rush is taking place at the Norfolk Showground on 16th July.
“Josh was only four days old when he died and all his life was spent in hospital,” said Rebekah, who first became aware of a problem when she was 30 weeks and four days pregnant, in April 2015.
“I realised Josh’s movements were different to usual and went to King’s Lynn hospital to be assessed. However, before I saw the doctor, I had a massive bleed and was rushed into theatre for an emergency C-section.
“It was several hours before I recovered from the anaesthetic and was able to go into the neonatal intensive care unit and see Josh. We were told he was doing well and that we’d be able to hold him soon, which we looked forward to.
“However, at less than two days old, Josh’s lung collapsed. Although doctors tried to get him breathing, he had Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN). It meant oxygen was not getting around his body.”
Rebekah and Philip were told their baby needed to be transferred to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. However, the next day, scans revealed devastating news. Josh had bleeds on both sides of his brain and his organs were starting to fail, so the couple were asked for permission to turn off his life-support machine.
“The doctor mentioned that EACH may be able to help,” said Rebekah, an accountant at Larking Gowen.
“We didn’t understand how at the time, but agreed for them to come and see us. The following day, we were able to hold Josh for the first time as he died in our arms. Together with two of the team from EACH, we spent time with him making memory items. I felt numb and struggled to take in what had happened.
“EACH then supported us with arranging Josh’s funeral, giving us ideas of songs, poems and music other families had used. I had counselling for over a year and we both attended a monthly bereavement support group.
“Ben also used to attend the children’s group, which he enjoyed. We were able to make more memory items and meeting other bereaved parents and hearing their experiences helped us enormously. We’ll always wonder what Josh would have been like.
“I remember looking forward to him joining our family and talking to Ben about having a little brother. He was only two at the time. We didn’t really get much time together which is why the memory items – hand and foot casts and handprints of Ben and Josh together on a plate – are so important.
“We all appreciate the support from EACH.”
Together with other families, Rebekah and Philip, a farmer on his family farm at Pentney, have organised coffee mornings and other events, as well as taking part in previous Bubble Rushes. Now they are looking forward to more foam-filled fun in July.
The course once again features four bubble stations along a 2.5km route. Participants can do one lap or double their enjoyment by completing the circuit twice. Each bubble station has a cannon which pumps out coloured foam to create a four-foot deep bubble bath.
“We’ve also been to memory days and Christmas carol services organised by EACH,” said Rebekah, who lives in Holme Hale, near Swaffham. Both are a lovely way for families to remember their children – a place to be able to let the tears fall.
“Ben and James enjoy the Bubble Rushes the most, though. They’re another way of continuing to include Josh in our family.”