A HEARTBROKEN mum has revealed her baby daughter died in her arms, just five days after she made a strange "whimpering sound".
Mum-of-two Nicole Dugmore, 27, got just six days with Caitlin Charlotte Sullivan, before she made the difficult decision to turn off her life support.
Born in April 2017, Caitlin was Nicole's first child with partner Richard Sullivan, 34, a production operative.
After a night in hospital, the pair returned to their Birmingham home with big sister Janey, then eight, Nicole's child from a previous relationship, who helped give Caitlin her first bath.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous Digital, Nicole said: "Janey was so excited. We washed Caitlin’s hair, then I settled her down in her crib. We were enjoying every moment."
While Caitlin slept, her parents watched her proudly. There was no cause for concern, until the day-old tot made a small whimpering sound.
She didn't seem distressed, but Nicole mentioned it to the community midwife when she visited soon after.
The midwife said Caitlin looked pale and took her temperature – which gave a low reading – then advised Nicole to take her daughter back to Good Hope Hospital.
Nicole said: "There, a midwife took Caitlin from me, telling me she was very cold. Dread swept over me. Within minutes, everything went wrong."
One minute we were at home giving Caitlin her first bath – the next, she was fighting for her life
Nearly an hour later, Richard and Nicole were taken to see their baby. She had been put on a life support machine.
Nicole said: "I broke down when I saw her. I felt so helpless and afraid.
"One minute we were at home giving Caitlin her first bath – the next, she was fighting for her life."
Doctors warned the parents Caitlin was in a critical condition.
Nicole said: "I still thought Caitlin would be alright. We’d bring her home again, I was sure."
Caitlin was transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and her parents stayed by her side throughout.
Nicole said: "I couldn’t leave her. Janey stayed with her dad but called me constantly, asking for news.
"I didn’t know what to say to her. I didn’t know what was going on."
As the days went on, and Caitlin showed no signs of improvement, Nicole brought Janey to meet the sister she'd only had a few hours to get to know.
Nicole said: "The hospital made Janey a folder full of pictures and explanations of Caitlin’s machines, which gave her an understanding of what was going on.
"I warned her, before we entered the intensive care ward together, Caitlin was very, very poorly.
"She took a deep breath, told me she’d be OK and rushed to her little sister’s side, giving her the most gentle kiss."
Caitlin was going to die. She was in terrible pain – so we decided to turn off her life support and put her out of her struggle
While Caitlin fought for life, her family cherished every moment they had with her.
Caitlin squeezed Richard’s finger. She opened her eyes and gazed at Nicole.
Nicole said: "We weren’t allowed to hold Caitlin, so for her to make contact with me was huge."
Meanwhile, friends and family kept texting to ask for news, thinking the family were settling in at home.
The parents set up a Facebook page called Pray for Cait, to keep everyone updated.
Nicole said: "Doctors performed countless tests and Caitlin had round-the-clock care.
"Like us, the medical team didn’t leave her side. Caitlin fought so hard, but then her bowel started to fail.
"A doctor warned us there was nothing more that could be done."
Caitlin’s organs were failing and it was looking unlikely she’d survive the night.
Richard and Nicole had to have an impossible conversation.
At home that night, life felt surreal. We had balloons and cards all over the house, congratulating us on our baby. But we had no baby
Nicole said: "Caitlin was going to die.
"She was in terrible pain and, as we loved her with all our hearts, we decided to turn off her life support and put her out of her struggle.
"I’d have done anything to have one more minute with my baby, but not in those circumstances. I had to do what was right for her, not me."
A doctor unhooked the machines and put Caitlin in her mum’s arms, the first time Nicole had been allowed to hold her since they’d arrived back in hospital.
Nicole said: "I asked Caitlin to wait for me, wherever she was going, because I’d be with her one day.
"Caitlin took her last breath, just as Richard and I told her we loved her."
After six days of life, she was gone.
CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE: THE FACTS
Congenital heart disease is a term for a range of birth defects which affect the way the heart works.
Signs something's wrong include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Swelling of the legs, tummy or around the eyes
- Extreme tiredness/fatigue
- A blue tinge to the skin
- Tiredness and rapid breathing when your baby is feeding
Nicole said: "At home that night, life felt surreal. We had balloons and cards all over the house, congratulating us on our baby. But we had no baby."
Four weeks later, Nicole had the difficult task of preparing baby Caitlin for her funeral.
She said: "Caitlin’s colour was lemon, because she was bright, like the sun.
"I dressed her in a lemon-coloured dress and tucked her lemon-coloured blanket up around her.
"She had deteriorated so much, she didn’t look like Caitlin anymore.
"But I don’t regret the decision to make sure Caitlin was OK in her coffin.
"I felt I owed it to her to make sure she looked lovely before she went off on her final journey."
Richard and Nicole grieved in different ways, and started to grow apart.
Five months after Caitlin's death, they agreed to break up.
But they remain friends and meet up to mark their daughter's birthday every year.
They also changed the name of Caitlin’s Facebook page to Live for Cait – and continue to post updates.
I felt haunted by memories of Caitlin dying in my arms and lying in a coffin
In December 2017, Nicole and Janey moved to Somerset for a fresh start.
Nicole said: "I felt haunted by memories of Caitlin dying in my arms and lying in a coffin.
"My GP diagnosed me with PTSD and arranged a counsellor. Therapy was so helpful.
"I learned how PTSD causes traumatic memories to stay lodged at the forefront of the brain.
"I also learned how to focus on positive memories of Caitlin and I emerged as a new, stronger woman because of her."
A post-mortem, done before Caitlin's funeral, revealed her heart was enlarged and couldn't function properly.
It couldn’t pump blood around her body, which led to multiple organ failure. Her condition was so rare, it doesn’t have a name.
There was nothing anyone could have done differently.
Nicole said: "Caitlin had an extra big heart because she had an extreme amount of love to give.
"We try and capture the love she gave us and keep it with us in all we do.
"Caitlin’s legacy is happiness. We want people to know it’s OK to feel happy again after tragedy.
"In Caitlin’s memory, I’m training to be a paramedic. I want to save lives and save people from grief.
"I want to make Caitlin proud. If I can’t live with Caitlin, I must live for her."
Earlier this week, we spoke to a mum who revealed her daughters found their sister, 21, dead in the bath – and said "I’m still haunted by their screams".
Source: Read Full Article