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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
National
Katie Williams

The moment Scottish family knew something was wrong with their baby

A family from Fife have spoken out about the moment they realised that something was tragically wrong with their new baby.

Parents Louise and Joe Richards from Cupar, went through 'the worst moment of their lives' after doctors found newborn Eilidh had very low blood sugar.

Eilidh was born on August 17, 2019 by emergency c-section and in the following morning she was transferred to the Special Baby Unit in Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy. Her mum explained how her new baby wasn't well and was 'sleepy'.

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At just six weeks, despite the doctors' best efforts, Eilidh sadly passed away from a rare terminal mitochondrial disease.

Louise, a 35-year-old district nurse, currently on maternity leave with her second baby, Wren, said: “I had a healthy pregnancy with Eilidh but at 38 weeks doctors at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy discovered she was on the small side and breech, so on August 17 2019, Eilidh was born by emergency c-section, weighing 5lb 8oz.

"The first sign that something was wrong, was when they found her blood sugar levels were very low. She also wasn’t feeding well, and was very sleepy, so we were transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit the following morning.”

Baby Eilidh died in 2019, aged six weeks, when mum Louise and dad Joe were staying at Camberwell House. (Ronald McDonald House Charities UK)

After a week of no improvement she was taken to Edinburgh's Royal Hospital for Sick Children where the family stayed for seven days. However the couple were given the devastating news from medics that there was a high chance that little Eilidh wouldn't survive.

Speaking about the traumatic weeks that followed, Louise said: “She got taken into surgery to have a central line put in, so they could administer more medication. She was also put on a ventilator. It was traumatic and although my nursing background meant I understood the terminology, it was completely different being on the other side of it.”

On August 30 doctors had a very difficult conversation with Louise and Joe, during which they said there was a high chance Eilidh wouldn’t survive.

Louise described the horror of that conversation: “It was the worst moment of our lives; completely horrific. However, there was still hope, and they decided to transfer us to Kings College Hospital London, which is a liver specialist centre.

Louise spoke out about the traumatic events that unfolded in a matter of weeks. (Ronald McDonald House Charities UK)

“We were flown to London in a tiny propellor plane in the early hours of the morning. A specialist team had flown up from London to meet us and care for Eilidh during the journey. They were incredible, doing everything to put us at ease.”

When Joe and Louise arrived in London, they began to wonder how they would afford a hotel, close to where Eilidh was being treated. That’s when Ronald McDonald House Charities UK stepped in.

Louise said: “We couldn’t believe there was a beautiful Ronald McDonald House just five minutes’ walk away from the ward. It was a lifesaver. Everyone was so friendly and willing to chat. It had a really welcoming, homely atmosphere, and the facilities were incredible too.”

Louise and Joe had been at the House for a week when they were told Eilidh’s diagnosis was a rare, terminal mitochondrial disease.

Eilidh was weaned off the ventilator and had lines removed, so her heartbroken parents could make memories with her, which included giving her a bath, dressing her, and having cuddles. She was christened in the hospital chapel and relatives came to see her.

On September 28, Eilidh died peacefully in Louise’s arms, surrounded by her loving family.

Although they will never get over the pain of losing Eilidh, Louise and Joe were delighted to welcome another baby girl into their lives on June 13, when Louise gave birth to little Wren.

In memory of Eilidh Frances Richards, Louise and Joe's family came together to complete a 'grueling' three-day cycle. The family raised a whopping £9,000 by completing a three-day Coast to Coast ‘Ray of Light Ride’ for Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, to honour their loved one, who died aged six weeks.

The cycling challenge, which began in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, on Friday April 21, and ended in St Andrews, Fife, on Sunday April 23, covered 170 miles and included a lunch stop at Ronald McDonald House Edinburgh on Saturday.

Alongside Louise’s mum Janis Plunkett and her uncle Pete Clarke, Wren and Louise formed part of the support team for the coast-to-coast ride, which was the brainchild of Louise’s cousin Will Clarke, a keen cyclist.

Louise said: “Will works for the Property Alliance Group, which does much to support Ronald McDonald House Manchester. He was joined by Joe, my brother Luke Plunkett and our 71-year-old dad Mick, my aunt Chris Clarke, who’s 69, and her friend Jamie McCubbin.

The family came together to take on a 'grueling' cycling challenge around Scotland, stopping of Edinburgh. (Ronald McDonald House Charities UK)

“Dad lives in North Northumberland, Chris and Jamie are in Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders and Will lives in Manchester, so it was great to unite everyone for this special event. It’s an experience we’ll be talking about as a family for many years to come. We’re delighted with our much we’ve raised and thank everyone who donated.”

Joe, a 35-year-old Finance Director at St Andrews Applied Research Ltd, said: “It’s been a great challenge for us all as a team and a fantastic achievement to complete the ride. The wind was crazy and against us the whole way, but we kept our motivation through thinking about Eilidh and are so proud to have done something in her name for such an important charity.”

Ronald McDonald House Charities UK is an independent Charity, which operates 14 Houses across England, Wales, and Scotland, providing free ‘home away from home’ accommodation. The Houses keep families together, close to their children in hospital. They provide a place to sleep, cook and retain some sense of normal life; a lifeline for families at a very stressful time, especially when they are far from home. A Ronald McDonald House saves each family an average of £1,240 in out-of-pocket accommodation expenses.

Julia Coley, Community Fundraiser for Scotland at Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, said: “We’re so pleased that we were able to help ease some of the financial and emotional burden of having a sick child in hospital by offering Joe and Louise a safe and comfortable place to stay, close to Eilidh. We’re so very sorry for their loss. What Joe and the team have achieved in Eilidh’s memory is truly incredible and the funds raised will make such a difference to other families in need.

“It was lovely to meet the cyclists and their supporters at the Edinburgh House on day two of the challenge and to give them some well-earned refreshments. Our huge congrats to all involved!”

To donate, please go to: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rayoflightride.

To find out more about Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, visit: www.rmhc.org.uk.

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