How this Ipswich family rebuilt their life after losing baby James
PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:14 22 August 2019
An Ipswich mother has told of her baby son's legacy - and how the Treehouse hospice helped the family rebuild their lives - after he tragically died at just 18 days old.
Over the past three years Joanne Rawlings, her husband Jonathan and two-year-old son Joshua James have raised thousands of pounds for East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH), which helped the Ipswich-based parents make precious memories in the short time they had with firstborn son James.
Now, as they launch their latest event in his memory - a firewalk at Trimley Sports and Social Club, near Felixstowe, on September 7 - Joanne has shared what she wants her son's legacy to be, and how their family coped after such a tragedy.
'Cuddled by his family'
James was just over two weeks old when he died at home on May 16, 2016.
He suffered severe complications during birth, which ultimately led to his death.
He received treatment at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and was later transferred to the EACH Treehouse Hospice in Ipswich.
James died a few days later, at home, while being "cuddled by his family".
'A legacy James would be proud of'
"We've raised a lot of money in James' name," Joanne said.
"We want James to be remembered through the fundraising.
"We hope that any money raised in James' memory will help other local families that may find themselves in a similar situation to us and needing EACH's help and support.
"There has been a cot which is in his memory at The Treehouse, and from what I've been told that will make a massive difference to babies and young children that will stay there.
"It's about giving back to EACH because they were such a lifeline. Without them it could have been so different. They gave us time to make memories we never thought we'd have a chance to make.
"We've had so many events and everyone has been so supportive, from barn dances to online auctions and our friends have also run the Great North Run and climbed Ben Nevis."
'We didn't have a clue what to expect'
In a home video, Joanne has opened up about their first moments at The Treehouse.
"We didn't have a clue what to expect - we just didn't know what was going to happen; it was so scary," she said.
"We turned up at The Treehouse in the early hours of the morning and what greeted us was the warmest of welcomes. I'll never forget it.
"James was settled in his own nursery.
"There were nursery rhymes playing for him for the first time. He looked so cosy in his Moses basket and was away from all the machines and wires, and that was the first time we felt like a proper family.
"We got to hold him, we got to do everything that you just take for granted when you take your baby home. We got to have our family visit whenever we wanted, we got Sunday dinner, we managed to have a picnic outside.
"The Treehouse and the staff were amazing, and they made this most amazing memory book for us.
"I could never thank them enough for what they did.
"Giving James his first bath, having a film night in the sensory room, the photos and memories we made there are something I'll treasure forever."
The family spent five days at The Treehouse, with Joanne and Jonathan shown how to care for James as he required feeding through a tube and various medicines. Finally, they were able to spend five days at home.
'EACH were a lifeline for us'
"Without EACH's help I don't know what would've happened," Joanne said.
"They were a lifeline for us and when James passed away we took him back to The Treehouse, and he was settled in his nursery until his funeral.
"They gave us a chance to be a family.
"The thing that really worried me was James had never been on his own since he was born, but the staff and hospice kindly arranged to make sure there was always somebody there until his funeral, and that's something I'll never forget.
"We fell pregnant quite quickly with Josh, and they were there with us every step of the way with the bereavement counselling, and even now they are just there. If we need help, we can just call them.
"It's like having a second family. When I go back there it's like having a second home. I love going back there.
"It's so warm and welcoming, and the staff there are absolutely amazing."
- To donate to the family's latest fundraising appeal, visit their JustGiving page.
Places for the firewalk are now sold out, but people can still show their support by donating. Local businesses Healey Printers and Allstar Training have sponsored the events.
For more information about EACH and its services, visit the organisation's official website.