How a Leeds mum used her own personal tragedy to help other bereaved parents
The death of a baby or a young child is something no parent ever wishes to go through. For young mother Carrie-Ann Curtis, this nightmare became reality when her son Charlie died at just 19 minutes old.
Her baby had been a victim of Potter’s Syndrome - a rare and fatal condition that affects the growth of the kidneys.
Following her son’s death, Carrie-Ann, of Middleton, spent three days in hospital with Charlie. After she was discharged she felt that she was offered “little to no support” in coping with her massive bereavement.
Her experience inspired Carrie-Ann, 23, and her family to set up the Charlie’s Angel Centre - a support network for bereaved parents.
Carrie-Ann’s step-mother Ruth Curtis, who is a volunteer at the charity, said: “Our inspiration and motivation always has been and always will be Charlie.
“We feel that he was given to us for a reason and his legacy will be that we will continue to campaign to get improvements to the current provision of bereavement support that families so desperately need and deserve.
“Carrie did not get the support she should have and that is why we do the work we do, we will always be here for parents and families to contact to help and support them through their loss.”
Charlie’s Angels is currently run out of the home of Sam and Clive Key – Carrie-Ann’s mother and step-father.
Sam deals with the day-to-day running of the charity, answering emails and phone calls and building up social media.
She also set up and maintains the charity’s website, www.charlies-angel-centre.org.uk, which provides information regarding what the charity is up to, upcoming events and how you can donate to their cause.
The long-term goal for Charlie’s Angels is to open a 24-hour bereavement centre with full-time councillors available to those in need of help.
Ruth said: “To get our bereavement centre up and running would cost us in the region of £50,000, currently we have raised just over £10,000.
“Although we do not have our centre open at the moment we still do support families on a 24 hour basis.
“We also have the services of a bereavement counsellor who volunteers her time to the charity to work with the families.
“All the people who help run the charity are volunteers.”
Charlie’s Angels currently runs a monthly support group at St George’s Centre, on St George’s Road, Middleton, which is open to all families.
The charity has organised a series of fundraising events over the last few years, including online auctions, charity balls and family fundays. The family have also embarked on gruelling charity walks, including a 130-mile hike from Morecambe to Scarborough in just under four days.
And in September 2013, the family walked 66 miles from their home in Leeds to Nottingham in just 26 hours.
The charity has also set up a petition on Change.org calling for the Department of Health to provide a comprehensive care package of support for all families following the death of a baby or child upon discharge from hospital.
The petition currently has more than 2,700 signatures.
Ruth said: “We work tirelessly to get the topic of bereavement support following the loss of a baby or child on the agenda within the NHS both locally and nationally and have had several meetings with South Leeds CCG, Bereavement Liaison Team, Lead Bereavement Midwife and other medical professionals.”
An online petition has been set up by the Charlie’s Angels Centre calling for the Department of Health to provide a comprehensive care package of support for all families coping with the loss of a baby or child.
A message on the petition reads: “In Leeds alone there are 32,000 people awaiting bereavement counselling. The wait for counselling can be anything from six – 18 months. Surely this cannot be right. Bereaved families need support as soon as they leave the hospital.”
You can sign the petition by visiting www.Change.org and entering the search term “Charlie Curtis”.