A mum whose daughter died after just 19 days says she and her family were blessed with the gift of time thanks to East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH). Tallulah Irish was born by emergency caesarean in November 2013.
She was immediately taken to neonatal care as doctors were concerned she was not responding well after birth. Parents Keely Blows and Curtis Irish were hopeful Tallulah would start to improve but a scan of her brain revealed extensive damage incompatible with life, later discovering it was most likely due to a stroke in the days leading up to birth.
She received end-of-life care at Milton and her family, who moved into the hospice for nearly three weeks, were supported by EACH.
“We certainly made the most of the time we had and I’ve got so many lovely memories,” said Keely, who has two other children, Teddy, 12, and Marlowe, six.
“Tallulah was absolutely beautiful and lived her days warm in someone’s arms at almost all times, surrounded by the voices and love of her family. The nurses were always there if we needed them. There was always someone on hand to speak to.
“Milton gave us so many opportunities to do things that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, including lots of memory-making. We’ve always said how we could never imagine those weeks without the support of the hospice.
“The stress and fear, I believe, would have overridden any chance to make the most of her precious life. The outcome would have been the same but, this way, there were no regrets. Our most treasured memory was when, after realising we wouldn’t be able to spend Christmas together as a family, the staff arranged for Father Christmas to visit Teddy and Tallulah.
“Seeing Teddy’s face was priceless. We were also given a tree to decorate and hung Christmas lights. The four of us would lay under those lights at night, cuddled together, and they’re memories we’ll have forever.”
Tallulah, who would have been ten in November, was born at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge. She started having seizures shortly after being born and a brain scan revealed serious damage.
“When we were able to visit the day after she was born, silently we knew something was very wrong,” said Keely.
“It’s the hardest day to look back on, trying to read between the lines and moving so quickly between hope, despair and distress at seeing all the tubes and wires. That evening our world completely collapsed around us, when the doctors told us there was nothing they could do. They said she had minutes, hours or maybe days to live.
“When she made it through the night, we decided to be together as a family at the hospice for the time she had left and I can’t imagine going through that period of our lives without EACH.
“From the moment we arrived, the care and support we received was unbelievable – from playing with our son to making memorable items we could keep forever, cooking all our meals and preparing us for the future. Milton felt like a second home and the staff like friends.
“Tallulah surprised us all and stayed with us for 19 days. We truly believe the love and support she received kept her with us and being at the hospice gave us the opportunity to say both hello and goodbye, focusing on those precious days as a family of four.
“It gave us the gift of time together and you can’t put a price on that. I’ve got special memories, even though it was the worst of times.
“Those three weeks allowed us to get to know our daughter, while at the same time saying goodbye.”
Keely and Curtis have become dedicated fundraisers in the decade since. They recently organised a charity football day which, with money still to come, is on track to raise more than £10,000. Incredibly, it means that, in total, the couple have raised more than £40,000.
They have arranged coffee mornings, a disco and raffle. They took part in EACH’s 2019 Huntingdon Bubble Rush and have been supported by family and friends who have completed fundraisers including the London Marathon, the Cambridge Half-Marathon, a 10k run and Dry January.
“Our amazing family and friends kick-started the fundraising at a time when we weren’t able to ourselves,” said Keely.
“The support from our community amazed us and really spurred us on. We’re so proud of the impact her little life has had in raising awareness of the hospice. The fundraising has given us a focus and a way to come together as a family to remember Tallulah.
“We still talk about her all the time. I’ve always been very open and certainly don’t want her name to be a taboo. I’d hate anyone to avoid talking about her in case it upsets me. It’s not always easy but I certainly won’t ever let her be forgotten.”