A YOUNG couple who survived the unthinkable – the death of their two children – will spend this Christmas in New York, thanks to the generosity of strangers.
Amy Wheeler and Jamie Bridges are grieving the loss of their second child in less than two years, after both their babies, born prematurely, died from different complications.
The couple moved into a two-bedroom flat in Maltings Way, Bury St Edmunds, one month before their daughter Ruby was born.
Excited at living together, they decorated Ruby’s bedroom, laid pink carpet and furnished it ready for her arrival.
But the ‘little angel’ was born prematurely, at 25 weeks and, despite fighting for six long months, in April last year she died in her mum’s arms.
“When she passed away it was hard to be living together,” said Amy, of the strain the grief put on her relationship with partner-of-four-years Jamie, “but it’s definitely made us stronger.”
Soon after, the couple found out Amy was pregnant with their second child, Freddie, and they redecorated the nursery ready for him.
“I was so happy, scared as well about him being born prematurely, but so happy,” said Amy.
At 30 weeks, Freddie was born, stronger than Ruby had been, but doctors discovered he had a rare liver disease and in September this year, at nine-days-old, he passed away. Neither Ruby nor Freddie ever saw their nursery.
“They’re the two strongest people we’ve met,” said Jamie, adding, “the first time was a massive hit but the second time was different, it was like deja vu – everything doubled, we’re twice as angry, twice as sad.”
Jamie, a chef at Bury’s One Bull, spoke candidly of the jealously he feels at seeing other families.
After two years of traumatic ‘ups and downs’ the couple, both now aged 21, were eager to get away but repeated hospital visits and time off work meant that finances were tight.
Having watched the couple selflessly raise £10,000 for babies charity Tommy’s, family friends Michelle and Paul Robshaw decided to host a bingo night to raise funds for their holiday.
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Local businesses donated raffle prizes and guests made donations, bringing the total amount raised to a generous £2,655.
“I couldn’t believe it, I had to sit down when I heard,” said Amy.
Within a week of the fund-raiser on November 19, she and Jamie had booked a much-needed Christmas break, in New York.
It will be their first holiday together and is somewhere they have always wanted to visit, with scenes from Home Alone as a comparison.
They have arranged to spend Christmas Eve skating outside and Christmas Day at Central Park Zoo. They plan to take a helicopter ride over the city, climb to the top of the Empire State Building and see the new World Trade Centre.
“Last year when it got to Christmas it felt empty and now it’s happened twice we really didn’t want to be here,” said Jamie.
“I want to walk the streets without people knowing what’s happened,” said Amy.
Grateful for the support of ‘so many good people’ and, in particular, the Robshaws, Amy’s mum Jenny said: “It’s so important because it helps us to know that they’ve got some happiness - we just want them both to be happy.”