The 10 days they were able to spend making “special memories” with their baby daughter were a “magical” time, Jade Nash’s grieving parents have said.
Claire Nash and Wayne Flanagan, both 34, from Lewisham, south-east London, said they were “really grateful” to have been able to spend time with their daughter before her death on January 19 at the Demelza hospice in Eltham, south-east London.
The couple praised the staff who enabled them to create those memories, with Mr Flanagan saying: “We’re really grateful of the 10 days that we did have. And a huge part of that was what the people around us made it.”
Jade was born on January 9 2021 at University Hospital Lewisham, in south-east London, six weeks before her February 21 due date, after a straightforward pregnancy.
“Wayne and I got Covid a few days into the new year, we both tested positive for Covid and that’s when things started to seem to go a bit peculiar,” Ms Nash, who runs a marketing agency, told the PA news agency.
“I was getting what I thought were constipation feelings and I’d come down with a high temperature so I was in bed for quite a few days.”
On January 9, she called University Hospital Lewisham after a bleed and was told to go in despite her Covid status.
Unable to use public transport due to the virus, Ms Nash walked about a mile to the hospital while Mr Flanagan stayed at home with the couple’s five-year-old son Elijah.
Labour had started and everything progressed well until the baby’s heart rate started falling and a swift forceps delivery was required.
“I remember her being born and she was placed on my lower stomach for just a few seconds and then she got taken away to the bed where they started resuscitating her,” Ms Nash told PA.
“They worked on her for 30 minutes to try and get her heart beating again. I don’t know why but I guess at that moment in time, I never thought that our baby wasn’t going to survive.”
Ms Nash added: “Sometimes I’ll look back on the situation and I find it really traumatic but then it was also a really beautiful moment when I got to meet my little girl.”
Jade, who was named after midwife Jade Johnson, was transferred to Evelina London Children’s Hospital where she was kept in isolation in case she also had Covid-19.
She had suffered significant brain damage due to oxygen deprivation and limited blood flow to her brain during her birth (Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy).
The following day Ms Nash was moved to St Thomas’ Hospital, on the same central London site, and the couple – wearing masks, gowns, goggles and gloves – were allowed to see Jade.
“She was in this big room in her little incubator, just looking so fragile,” Ms Nash said.
“That was the first time I guess we really got to look at her and talk to her and appreciate how strong and brave she was but I remember thinking and looking at her in her incubator and noticing the box on the side for her footprints and thinking that’s almost like her memory box.
“I guess I was in denial that that’s what we were facing.”
Jade was at Evelina for eight days and Ms Nash remembers it as “a magical time”, saying “that’s where we got to make some really special memories with her”.
“And we got to do her footprints and read her stories, and we got to hold her.”
Friends and family, including Elijah, were not allowed to visit and the couple praised the staff who “were everything to us at that time” and had showed them such compassion.
One nurse tucked a supportive note into a copy of the Charlie Mackesy book The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse which had been tearfully read to Jade, while another used Jade’s medical leads to make a postcard of hearts for the couple to keep.
The couple wanted Jade to meet her family, especially her big brother, but it was not possible at Evelina so she was moved to the Demelza children’s hospice in Eltham, where she also met her grandparents, uncles and aunt.
“I’ve got some really, really, really precious moments and memories of Elijah leaning into her incubator and touching her hand and just being so delicate with her and being excited at seeing his little sister,” Ms Nash told PA.
“It was really, really magical.”
She added: “We got to spend the night together the four of us and it was a perfect night.
“I guess what we imagined life to be like with Jade.”
The family had nicknamed their unborn baby Little Peacock and a picture of a peacock was put on the door of the room where Jade’s body was taken following her death.
Her parents praised the small gesture from staff as having had a huge impact with Ms Nash saying: “It just shows kindness and a beautiful human being.”
Mr Flanagan, who will soon start a masters in psychology at the University of Greenwich, said it was not yet known if Covid-19 was a factor in Jade’s death but there had been a placental abruption.
“I’m not really sure any answer would really bring any solace,” he added.
Ms Nash added: “I was always scared when I was pregnant with Jade because of the situation that we were in.
“We were obviously in the peak of the pandemic. She was going to be born at a time when a lot of things were uncertain.
“But I guess I never thought that we would both be Covid positive, I would be on my own, Wayne wouldn’t be there at the birth of his daughter and what would happen would happen.”
Lottie McElhinney, care team leader at Demelza’s South East London hospice, who worked closely with the family and made the peacock sign for Jade’s door, said: “It was a privilege and an honour to be able to care for baby Jade at the end of her life and support her loved ones through such a difficult time.
“By coming to Demelza, Jade’s family were able to be together with her for the first time and make precious memories.”
– To donate to fundraising in Jade’s memory visit:
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