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‘Losing Zach was so hard… but Leo has brought a bit of light back into our lives’

Shaheen and Craig Blackie, and their baby son Leo. (Andrew Cawley)
Shaheen and Craig Blackie, and their baby son Leo. (Andrew Cawley)

SHAHEEN Blackie looks lovingly into the eyes of her baby son.

“I can’t describe how amazing it is to have a baby in my arms again,” she says. “He’s just amazing … our little rainbow.”

Little Leo is getting bigger by the day. He’s 13 weeks old – 11 more than his big brother managed to survive.

Shaheen’s first born, Zach, was just 13 days old when he passed away.

The tiny tot died in his mother’s arms from a common infection that could have been prevented with an £11 test.

He had meningitis, triggered by Strep B, a condition contracted during labour.

A simple swab during Shaheen’s pregnancy could have detected it – and saved his life.

But while mums-to-be are routinely screened for Strep B across the globe, there’s no such policy on the NHS in Scotland.

It came as crushing news to Shaheen, 26, and partner Craig, but in a strange way, it brought them closer together.

In a whirlwind year, the couple not only launched a campaign calling for the test to become standard for all pregnant women in Scotland but also tied the knot, moved house and, amazingly, found the courage to conceive another baby.

And now that he’s here, they couldn’t be happier.

Speaking for the first time since welcoming the new arrival, Shaheen said: “We never thought we’d be this happy again. The past year has been so difficult, especially on Zach’s first birthday and anniversary – but we’re getting through.

“And bringing baby Leo into the world has just brought light back into our lives.

“I feel like part of me died the day we lost Zach. I still get a pain in my chest when I think of him.

“But Leo has given me a lease of life that I didn’t think I would have in me again.

“He’s so like Zach, not only in terms of looks but he has the same nature. It’s like having Zach back again.”

Zach was born on August 2, 2015, weighing a healthy 7lb 10oz. He was a happy, settled newborn.

A fortnight later, his parents were forced to say goodbye.

Shaheen noticed a strange raspy noise in his breathing. She took him to hospital, thinking it was nothing more than a chest infection. Twenty-four hours later, he was gone.

Later tests confirmed Shaheen was a carrier of Strep B, a common bacterium. However, it wasn’t detected until it was too late.

In fact, his parents, from Bellshill, Lanarkshire, only found out it was the cause of their son’s death after his funeral.

In a bid to save other families from the same heartbreak, they channelled their grief into raising a petition with the Scottish Government. It’s set to be debated in Parliament this year.

“There are still moments when I look at photos of Zach and it all seems surreal,” Shaheen said. “I find myself thinking, ‘Did that happen? Was he actually here?’

“I had a pining feeling for so long after losing Zach. Initially, I thought I could never have another baby. I was too scared.

“I worried that I might not have the same love for another baby because I didn’t think I could love it as much as Zach.

“And, of course, I worried that something would go wrong.

“But Craig changed my mind. He said I was meant to be a mum and that we couldn’t not try again.”

Just days after discovering she was pregnant, Shaheen and painter and decorator Craig tied the knot in a simple ceremony at their local registry office. It was an intimate and inexpensive affair with just both sets of parents joining them to celebrate.

Eight months later, they sobbed uncontrollably as Leo came into the world.

With her second pregnancy, the simple swab test for Strep B was positive so Shaheen was able to be treated with antibiotics in labour. As a precautionary measure, Leo was given antibiotics too.

The Blackies loved nothing more than celebrating their first family Christmas just a few weeks ago.

The year before, instead of buying gifts, Shaheen and Craig bought little Zach a headstone.

This year, they spoiled Leo with presents – and shared memories of his sibling.

“In 2015, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. We didn’t even put up a tree.

“It was too hard thinking of the special time we should have been having with Zach. All the hopes and dreams I’d had for his first Christmas were shattered.

“But this year, we went all out. We visited Zach at the cemetery and then spent the day with our parents. It was the best Christmas ever for all of us.”

Shaheen added: “I don’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve gone through. It’s been horrific.

“Leo is proof that Zach’s death could have been prevented. I knew I had Strep B and he’s a perfectly healthy baby.

“It still surprises me we’ve come through it and are able to smile at the other side.

“Of course, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of Zach and how much I miss him. I still struggle with the loss.

“But being blessed with another baby has been amazing.

“He’s the best gift we could ever receive.”