Suffolk couple to cycle 100 miles for charity which helped during ‘utter devastation’ of losing one of their triplets
- Credit: Jo Arkwright
A Suffolk couple who lost one of their triplets as a tiny baby are taking on the “mission of a lifetime” in their son’s name.
Lauren and Andrew Braithwaite, from Little Thurlow, in the west of the county, are in training for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 mile cycle challenge in July.
The couple hope to complete the event in memory of their son Ralphy, who died aged seven weeks, and to raise funds for The Sick Children’s Trust, which helped in their time of need.
Lauren, 38, who trains horses, said the charity had helped in “so many ways that it is difficult to explain in words”.
After learning they were expecting triplets, the couple had been referred to the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge for specialist care.
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However, at 29 weeks pregnant, a problem with blood flow between the placenta and one of the triplets, Ralphy, was identified and Lauren was admitted to hospital.
The triplets Ted, Tom and Ralphy were delivered by emergency caesarean at just 30 weeks weighing 3lb 6oz, 3lb 2oz and 1lb 10oz respectively. All three required urgent attention. However, with too few cots for the brothers to be together, Ted and Tom were transferred to the Lister Hospital, 30 miles away.
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The Sick Children’s Trust, a charity which runs free “Home from Home” accommodation for families with seriously ill children in hospital, stepped in to help.
Lauren and Andrew were given a room at its Chestnut House near to the hospital.
“Over the next seven weeks the house became our lifeline, keeping me away from the edge of a dark void I felt I was moving so close to,” said Lauren. “The utter devastation of my reality was inexplicable to anyone but my husband.
“Having a base at Chestnut House, therefore, at least meant we just had to be in two places and not three, as would have been the case had we needed to go home every evening.
“Looking back, the trauma of having my boys in different hospitals was on a par with the suffering of losing Ralph.
“I didn’t realise it then, but for five and a half weeks I was never in the right place because my babies weren’t together. Chestnut House, which was just a few minutes away from Ralphy’s side, allowed me to spend time with him every morning and evening, whilst during the day I could go and see his brothers in another hospital.”
While Ted and Tom made good progress, Ralphy continued to fight for his life.
Despite growing stronger, at six and a half weeks he became extremely ill.
“Despite the amazing efforts of all the medical staff to save his life, Ralphy went downhill very quickly and our beautiful son died in our arms seven weeks to the day after being born,” said Lauren.
“The pain of losing Ralphy will never go away, but Andrew and I are now ready to fundraise for The Sick Children’s Trust.
“We know it costs the charity £30 to support a family for one night and so we are taking on the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 miles cycle challenge in the hope of raising £1,470, £30 for every night we stayed at The Sick Children’s Trust’s Chestnut House while Ralphy was in hospital.”
The Sick Children’s Trust relies entirely on voluntary donations to run its ten Homes from Home across the country, supporting families with free accommodation whilst their child is being treated in specialist paediatric hospitals.
Chestnut House Manager, Abi Abdel-aal, said: “The whole experience of having a baby on NICU is incredibly traumatic and to know that during this time we could be there for Lauren and Andrew, helping ease some of the stresses, is really comforting.
“Lauren, Andrew, Ted and Tom had somewhere to rest and get away from the hospital, whilst still being just moments from Ralphy. It was a very difficult time for the family and it was important that we could make their lives a little easier during such a traumatic time.
“We are honoured to hear that Lauren and Andrew are fundraising for us in Ralphy’s memory. We will definitely be watching the race and wishing them the best of luck.”
Visit Virgin Money Giving to sponsor the couple.
Visit the Sick Children’s Trust to learn more about the charity.