It was a day of chaotic emotions for Hazel Gallagher as she watched her son carry her precious granddaughter from their family home.
Keith, just 21, was in tears and her little granddaughter, Autumn, was wrapped in all their love inside the tiny white coffin in his arms.
Autumn had lived for 290 days, struggling against a heart defect that would finally beat her just three weeks ago.
The unspeakable loss of the beautiful dark haired tot plummeted the entire family into indescribable pain but somehow today they are still looking to the future.
Now they hope Coleraine Times readers will help them ensure their love for Autumn will support other families in childhood cardiac crisis just as her parents Dawn and Keith were helped.
Hazel explained: “Autumn was a beautiful young lady who was born with a broken heart but in her nine short months she gave so much love to everyone and touched so many people - and that’s why I’m raising money for the Children’s Heartbeat Trust.
“We knew from Dawn was 20 weeks pregnant that Autumn was going to have heart problems. At that stage we didn’t know how bad it would be.
“When she was born Autumn went straight to ICU, she had five heart defects but she was so beautiful, she had a mass of black hair, big brown eyes and the most wonderful eyelashes.
“She was in the Clark Clinic in the Royal Victoria Hospital for around five and half months. The Clark Clinic is for heart babies and the Children’s Heartbeat Trust provide rooms in the clinic so parents can stay with their children.”
The support Autumn’s parents received from the Clark Clinic proved invaluable.
Hazel explained: “Autumn was born with a very rare syndrome - 3Q27 deletion syndrome. It’s a rare congenital heart disease.”
Even though it is only three weeks since the family lost their beloved Autumn, the family is helping others through a fund raising event for the Children’s Heartbeat Trust.
Hazel said: “I’m always raising money for charity and I had already started to raise money for the Children’s Heartbeat Trust but now it now has added significance for all of us. The trust was holding the zip line fund raiser and Dawn and Keith had said they wanted to do something for them.
“Keith and Dawn said they’d both do it. This is their way of saying thank you to Heartbeat and also help other families who are going through the same thing as they did.”
Hazel added: “More babies die in Northern Ireland from heart disease than from cancer and yet very little is said about it and very little is contributed towards research in comparison.
“As a family we want to say thank you to everyone who has travelled this journey with us all. We all got so much love from Autumn which is why Dawn and Keith want her legacy to continue and they want other families to know about the Heartbeat Trust.
“Heartbeat do so much for the Clark Clinic and we know there is so much they need and that money could also go into research.
“Seeing my 21-year-old son coming out carrying his daughter’s coffin is an image I can never forget and I’d hate for any other family to go through this.”
To donate to Dawn and Keith’s Just Giving page google https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Hazel-Gallagher