Norwich mum’s brave charity mission
A Norwich mother who tragically lost both her prematurely-born twin daughters has channelled her grief into raising money to help other bereaved families.
Deborah Bagley, 31, a fitness instructor whose daughters Lucy and Grace died after being born at just 24 weeks, yesterday helped to run an event to raise money for the East Anglian Children's Hospice (EACH) at Quidenham.
The event, which saw Mrs Bagley team up with seven other fitness instructors to run four special classes for members of Greens gym on Barrack Street, raised several hundred pounds for the charity, which gave her bereavement counselling after the tragedy happened and still helps her to come to terms with her grief today.
Mrs Bagley and her husband Stuart, 32, who live in north Norwich and now have a 22-month-old daughter called Ruby, had been delighted when they learnt they would be the parents of twins and, despite having suffered several miscarriages in the past, Mrs Bagley enjoyed a relatively easy pregnancy.
But in February 2008, after just 23 weeks and five days, she unexpectedly went into premature labour and gave birth to the twins at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
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'I was told during the labour that they would both be born dead,' said Mrs Bagley. 'Grace was born first and weighed 1lb 4oz, but she was born with some fight in her - she was crying and moving her arms and legs, so even though they don't normally keep babies born before 24 weeks alive, the neonatal team decided to whisk her off to the neonatal intensive care unit.
'Half an hour later, I gave birth to Lucy, but she was born in a kind of coma and, although she had a very feint heartbeat, she wasn't with it and was very limp and bruised. The nurses decided to allow Lucy to pass away.'
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Mr Bagley took time off work and the couple stayed by Grace's incubator almost 24 hours a day for 10 weeks, during which time the baby girl doubled her weight and spent time off her ventilator, giving her parents hope that she may survive.
Mr Bagley went back to his job as a ventilation engineer, as the family was struggling financially by this point, and it was expected that Grace would make a full recovery.
But one evening, Mrs Bagley got a phone call from the hospital, which would change the rest of their lives.
She said: 'It was about 11.30pm when I got the call and they asked me how quickly I could get to the hospital, because Grace had deteriorated rapidly. By the time I got there, she had gone, although they were continuing to try to resuscitate her.'
A post-mortem examination did not reveal the cause of her death, which was simply recorded as 'premature birth'.
'The way we look at it is that she was an identical twin and she just wanted to be with her sister,' added Mrs Bagley, who said she would like to continue fundraising for Quidenham.
'You have times where you cry your heart out and other times where you want do productive things like use your experience to help other people who might be going through similar things. That's why I asked if we could raise money for EACH.'
The heartbroken couple initially declined the hospital's offer of bereavement counselling, because Mrs Bagley thought it would just be 'an old woman sitting behind her desk'.
But after visiting a friend at the hospital and meeting a representative of EACH, who explained more about the counselling available, she gratefully accepted the offer and started going to the monthly classes to talk about her experience with other bereaved parents.
Coincidentally, it was during one of these sessions that Mrs Bagley's waters broke and she was once again taken to the N&N, where she gave birth to a healthy daughter, Ruby.
She said: 'I felt really strange and scared about going back to the hospital, and I refused to go in the same entrance we used to go in when I was going to give birth to the girls - we had to go right around the back way.
'But this time the labour was fine and, when I had Ruby, all the staff from the neonatal unit came over to see us - she was like a little celebrity.
'When she was Christened, we asked people who came to donate money to the unit, but I also wanted to raise some money for EACH, as their support has been so important to us.
'I was delighted with how the event went yesterday - we had 40 people taking part who each paid �5 to take part in the four body training systems classes and I think everyone really enjoyed it.
'Ruby knows about her sisters and she comes along to Quidenham, so Grace and Lucy will not be forgotten - my husband and I talk openly about what happened. And we are hoping to have another child, probably next year.'
For more information about EACH, visit www.each.org.uk or call 01953 715559 for fundraising enquiries or 01953 888603 for support enquiries.
Do you have an inspirational story you would like to share with Evening News readers? Call reporter Sam Emanuel on 01603 772438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org