My daughter Deborah Louise (Debbie) was the eldest of the family, our other children Michael and Martin, were both devastated at her death.
To me Debbie was not only a wonderful mother to her three children, she was also my best friend and confidante. Debbie lived in the same village as me and every day without fail she would call in on her way to the village school, dropping off the youngest (Samuel) who was only 14 months old when she died.
The morning of Monday 5th February 2007 was no different from any other day, and in the afternoon when her eldest (Lucy) who was just under 5 years, came out of school we drove to the next village to visit my mother-in-law who was in a residential home. Whilst we were at the home, Debbie said that she was feeling a little unwell so I said that I would travel back to her house with her to see if I could do anything to help.
After making sure that the stair gates were up to stop young Samuel from getting up to mischief and switching on the TV for the children, I checked with Debbie that she was OK for me to leave. I left Debbie and the children at her home at about 5.30pm – she was in the midst of preparing an evening meal for her husband and the family.
Caitlin, who was just under 4 years, was busy helping her mum, whilst the other two were watching CBBs. As I left my last words to her were “Bye love, see you tomorrow” and she replied “Thanks mum, I’ll see you as usual”.
It was early in the morning (about 5.30 am) that my husband and I were awakened with the phone ringing.
As I woke my first thoughts were that it must be about 7 or 8am and it would be my daughter ringing up to say that one of the children was poorly and could I come down to help; but it was our son-in-law asking for our help as Debbie was on the bathroom floor and had stopped breathing.
We both threw on some clothes and raced down to the other end of the village where they lived, to find the Paramedics already there, doing their best to try and revive her. Tony (her husband) who is in the Navy and a qualified First Aider had tried before they arrived, but by 6.15am they said that there nothing more they could do.
This was not the end of it, as with a sudden death like that, the police had to be informed and so the next to arrive were two Constables who in turn called their Inspector. While all this was going on the poor children were up in the bedroom gathered together on their parents’ bed, in a somewhat bewildered state.
Soon after the Inspector arrived he asked me to take the children out of the way to another location, so he sympathetically bundled the three children and myself into his car and drove us back to our house. Meanwhile my husband was asked to stay behind with Tony as the police would have to ask him a few questions.
The Inspector asked if there was anyone I could contact to be with me, so I rang a dear friend who lived in the village and she came down to be with the children and myself. To this day some of it is still a blur and I thank God for all the wonderful friends and their support, which helped me to cope.
The three children have been marvellous throughout and they constantly bring a lump to my throat when they look up to the sky on a starlit night and say “Look that’s our mummy star, she is an angel now.”
From the age of five years, Debbie would occasionally faint and she was finally diagnosed with mild epilepsy. She would also pass out after some of her races.
Debbie held the title of Cornish Rowing Champion in Ladies Pair Paddles racing for over 13 years. On more than one occasion she was admitted to A&E but they were unable to find anything wrong. However, the post mortem did not find any signs of epilepsy, but an arrhythmia problem.
Nobody can prepare you for pain and heartache of losing a loved one, especially when its one of your children. People try to tell you that it will get easier, but there are times when I find that hard to believe.
Debbie was so warm hearted, well loved and respected by so many people, which was so evident at her funeral when the church was packed (over 700) and they had to relay the service to those who could not get into the building.
The only thing I can do now, as a fitting memorial to Debbie, is to try and bring awareness to other parents of the work the charity CRY does and why.
Three and half years on and my goal is to raise sufficient funding to bring a mobile screening unit to West Cornwall and if in doing so, some young person and their family are saved from the anguish of loosing a loved one, then I shall feel that my daughter did not die in vain.
With this in mind I will be devoting a full day of fundraising on the first day of CRY Awareness Week 2010, incorporating a Coffee Morning, Craft Stalls and afternoon tea; and a Concert in the evening involving young instrumentalists and singers.