Eastbourne mum: 'I couldn't believe my baby was gone'
20 August 2010
AN EASTBOURNE mum is doing a sponsored walk with her two small children to raise money for a cot death charity after her nine-week-old baby died.
Grieving Celine Mander battled to save tiny Leona after she stopped breathing during her morning nap.Nursery nurse Celine, 23, frantically dialled 999 and carried out CPR on the 'happy, perfect' baby but knew she was dead before paramedics arrived.
"Her lips were blue and she was cold," she told the Herald. "I couldn't believe my gorgeous little baby was gone. I just wanted her to open her eyes."Celine had to tell her three-year-old daughter Eloise her baby sister had gone to heaven and was now a star in the sky after she saw the tragic life-saving attempt. Now the toddler will walk beside her mum for six miles along the Cuckoo Trail from Polegate to Hailsham and back again - joined on 29 August by Celine's husband Daniel and 17-month-old little boy Duncan for the heartbreaking walk for Leona.Yesterday she said, "We will wear T-shirts with Leona's picture on them. She was only nine weeks and three days old when she died and we all miss her every day. It's so hard."Leona died of sudden infant death syndrome after she was put down for a nap.When dad Daniel went to check on her minutes later, he realised she wasn't breathing and called for Celine, who has paediatric first-aid training because of her job caring for babies and toddlers.Breaking down, Celine wept, "I tried everything but I knew she was dead. I was hysterical, we all were. The awful thing was Eloise saw it all. We had to have a post mortem and the coroner said Leona had just stopped breathing. "It wasn't that she couldn't breathe – her head was to the side. She just suddenly stopped breathing for no reason and we all kept asking why. But no one knows."It wasn't because she was on her tummy. Her head was turned to the side, but she would only ever settle on her tummy. All my children are like that. "They won't sleep on their backs, even though I know babies are supposed to. Even when we put her on her back, Leona would roll over."To cope with her grief, Celine rang the Foundation into the study of Infant Death Syndrome helpline. "They just let me talk and sob and really helped," she said. "That's why I want to raise as much money as I can for them, so they can help other people going through the same terrible thing."Leona's godmother Lara Carpenter – Celine's best friend – organised the sponsored walk while the family struggled to come to terms with their baby's death which happened in May."We had to get through the funeral, which was awful but Eloise's third birthday in July was the worst," Celine said. "She just kept asking where her baby sister was. She keeps getting confused. I've told her she's a star in the sky, but Eloise just keeps saying, "I want 'Ona." It's heartbreaking. We've all been affected. Daniel feels terribly guilty but it wasn't his fault. It could have happened anytime, anywhere."Devastated Celine has already been sponsored for more than £500 but is trying to raise as much as she can. "I want to help find out more about cot death to stop it happening to another family. "I spend every day down at Leona's grave, talking to her and telling her about her brother and sister. I can't ever imagine this terrible pain going away. "I've been asked if I'll have another child but I can't risk this happening again. I couldn't survive it and no one could ever replace Leona. She really was perfect."