My daughter Rachel Haigh died in her sleep on the 4th December 2001 aged 14 years, from Viral Myocarditis. Eight years later, we are now mourning the loss of our son Jason Chew who died in his sleep on the 11th March 2009 aged 17 years, from Lymphocytic Myocarditis. I have read that it can be compared to a light switch being turned off, so I am grateful that my precious children were unaware and didn’t suffer.
I was a single parent with 3 children (Lee 9, Paul 6 and Rachel 3) when I met and married Steven. We had two more children, Jason in 1991 and finally Kira in 1998.
Rachel grew into a tall and very popular teen with her own individual dress style. Her friends at school had nicknamed her ‘Phoebe’ from the TV series ‘Friends’ and I thought it was very apt as she was a ‘kooky’ teen and always had a smile on her face, nothing ever got her down.
She hardly gave us any problems and she certainly wasn’t stroppy or argumentative, so her sudden death came as a bolt out of the blue. She had suffered with a sore throat a week prior to her death and a visit to the doctors confirmed it was Tonsilitis. On that lovely, sunny Tuesday morning in December, my precious Rachel never woke up. Our world had stopped in an instant.
Thankfully, the immense support and love of our family and friends from our local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses helped us through the days, weeks and months after with provisions of cooked meals, visits, cards and flowers. They took care of our every need, for which myself and Steven are forever grateful for.
A few years later, having suffered with recurring palpitations since my late 20s, I was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, as was my younger brother. I asked whether Rachel’s death was connected somehow to our condition and I was told there was no connection and it had been a ‘one off’ tragedy….I was told this several times, so I took my medication and didn’t worry so much for my remaining children.
In December 2008 our son Jason started experiencing palpitations, so I immediately got him to the doctors and he was referred to a cardiologist on the 13th January 2009. Jason had an ECG and was fitted with a 7-day monitor, the results came back fine!
Six weeks later on the night of 10th March, a healthy Jason went to bed at 10.30pm and by 12.30am my husband was carrying out CPR on his son. Attempts by the paramedics and doctors at the hospital to revive him were unsuccessful. I couldn’t believe we were re-living this nightmare a second time!! We were given as much time as we needed to be with our beautiful boy and to say our goodbyes. We held him, we kissed him and just as we had done with Rachel, we took a lock of his lovely, dark hair. To leave him alone in the hospital is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Yet again, we experienced the caring and comforting ‘arms’ of our family and friends who are helping us through these difficult times.
Jason was a tall, at times shy and handsome young man with ‘model’ looks. He had a great sense of humour and we shared many a ‘chuckle’ with him. His 6’4″ height would turn many a young lady’s head and I would feel so proud to be with him at these moments, but he only had eyes for his sweetheart Amanda, who he said he was definitely going to marry and had planned to propose once he reached 18 years of age.
Like his half sister Rachel, he was a happy teen and always had a smile for everybody. Music was his passion and he had taught himself to play the guitar. One of his favourite bands were McFly. He would often get teased about this at college, but he didn’t care what other people thought. He wouldn’t give in to ‘peer pressure’ and conform, so I loved and respected him for that. We played Muse’s “Starlight” and McFly’s “The Last Song” at his funeral.
Jason was studying at college for a diploma in ‘Child Care Studies’ as he wanted to be a Teaching Assistant. He had such a way with children, they just warmed to him. Since his death, many parents have contacted us and told us how Jason had been such a positive influence on their children and we find some comfort in that and have no doubt he would have been an asset to the profession. As you well know, the effects of sudden tragedies are far reaching… hitting like a freight train everyone who was connected to Jason, especially his family, girlfriend Amanda and more so than any other, his sister Kira. I can’t begin to explain how this has devastated her life. To lose two of your siblings by 11 years of age has been horrendous for her.
Can anyone survive such intense grief?..yes..because we are proof! With the help of counsellors, the constant love of those who care for us and especially our faith, we are learning to cope each day and at times, step by step.
The doctors now believe that Rachel and Jason had an inherited genetic condition and may well have gone on to develop Cardiomyopathy, but genetic testing has yet to reveal that. Our main concern now is that of our daughter Kira and my two older sons. The CRY organisation have helped immensely by providing information we previously never had and we hope to have a consultation with Dr Sanjay Sharma in the near future.
We don’t need to explain how badly we miss our ‘beautiful boy’ and precious daughter. We have constant reminders in the music they loved so much and we keep their memory alive by carrying on our family tradition and attending concerts and also by keeping a smile on our faces. My heart goes out to all you parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins and others who have lost a most beloved child and family member. May your hearts keep strong.
Dedicated to the memory of Rachel and Jason…….. “I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart”