Angel Rosabel will help other families who suffer her cruel fate
I'd be in that darkest of dark places, a night without end, my head bursting with the worst thoughts imaginable, were such a thing to happen to my daughter. I don't think I could cope with it. I couldn't imagine living in a world without her, without her laughter.
Last Friday I met up with one of my best friends, Suzanne McClean, and her husband, Gary Monroe, in Dublin. They are two of the people I admire most in the world. Once you know their story you will, I feel, join me in admiring Suzanne and Gary, too. On April 21, their 16-month-old daughter Rosabel died in her cot at home in Mincloon, County Galway. There was no reason for their little angel to be so cruelly taken from them. (Her father Gary says Rosabel was an angel who flew too close to the ground.) All these months on, they might never know why Rosabel Mary Monroe - born on the afternoon of January 5, 2016 - died so tragically.
They are about to set up Rosabel's Foundation. Even in death, angel Rosabel will help other families who suffer her cruel fate.
"The particular idea has come about," says Suzanne, "because so far we have no cause of death... and therefore no message to share with other parents with a view to saving even one child from dying, or one other family from being torn apart." Suzanne adds, heartbreakingly, that on the dreadful night Rosabel was raced to hospital where she and Gary spent about 15 hours cradling their dying or deceased daughter in a small, cold, dark corner 'room' near the resuscitation area of the emergency department in University Hospital Galway
The hellish nightmare Rosabel's parents were going through wasn't eased by going up and down to the bathroom - mum Suzanne in her night dress - passing people on trolleys, drunk people in emergency, etc.
All this while Suzanne and Gary were desperately trying to, as Suzanne says, "navigate our way through those first crucial, post-trauma hours with our deceased child".
As a bereaved mother and a psychologist, Suzanne knows the potential impact the initial stages of trauma can have with regards to post-trauma recovery. It is her very strong opinion that 'psychological first aid' in the immediate aftermath of child-loss should be afforded to all parents and families in Ireland.
As such, it is Suzanne and Gary's "mission" that, starting with UHG, every hospital in Ireland should eventually have a child-focused bereavement room or suite - to be known as 'Rosabel's Room'.
"Rosabel's Rooms will provide privacy and comfort to families during that desperately sad time when their child's remains are required to stay in the hospital, in line with coroner's directives," Suzanne says. "These rooms will accommodate the deceased child and his/her family, for the day or two following the child's death. The rooms will be designed in line with recent HSE guidelines originally developed by the Irish Hospice Foundation with adjustable heating, lighting, comfortable furnishings, natural and neutral design, facilities for the family to take hand-prints, a lock of hair and so on."
Last week, following much consultation and proposal-writing, Ireland's first Rosabel's Room was agreed when Suzanne and Gary met senior management of Galway hospital. The hospital has officially agreed to allocate an appropriate space for Rosabel's Room into the plans for its new emergency department. This build will not be complete for another four years, so, in the interim they have agreed to allocate this space in the main hospital.
"It is huge news for us," says Suzanne. She and Gary deserve a bit of good news in their lives. They also received positive feedback from Crumlin and Temple Street. "But we are beginning our quest with Galway Hospital as this is the hospital that did their best to care for our little girl on the night she died," Suzanne said.
Rosabel's Foundation will have three themes:
1) Rosabel's Rooms in hospitals all over Ireland.
2) Bereavement counselling to families impacted by the trauma of child loss.
3) Financial support to families following the death of a child or young person. (They are still considering this theme in terms of how to assess needs and so on.) They are launching Rosabel's Foundation in January, on what would have been her second birthday. The final bit of much-needed good news for Suzanne and Gary regards a certain song. Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground provided huge meaning and great comfort to them in the weeks following Rosabel's death. "We are putting together a single version of this song." Hot House Flowers, who played at Rosabel's Month's Mind in Mincloon, and Sharon Shannon, who played at the funeral, have agreed to be involved, as have several other big names.