• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Love Ballymena

Cycle for Rachel | 10 epic cycle challenges to raise funds for Sands NI

David and Claire with daughters Naomi (left) and Emily (right)

Doagh couple David and Claire Charles are on a mission to raise much needed funds for charity Sands NI. Through a series of 10 epic cycle challenges, they will also honour and celebrate their baby daughter Rachel, who sadly died in 2010 and would have been 10 years old in September this year.

Sands NI is a volunteer-led group that supports anyone affected by the death of a baby, by working to improve the care bereaved parents receive, through promoting research and working closely with many different organisations to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.

David and Claire first encountered Sands NI when they lost their little baby girl on 11 September 2010. They experienced the devastating sense of loss that many couples in our community will have experienced when things do not go as planned.

David said: “My wife Claire was 32 weeks pregnant and everything seemed to be going fine. Then very suddenly, it wasn't. A midwife measured Claire's bump too big at a routine appointment on the Monday and the referral to the Consultant on Wednesday resulted in admission to the Royal Maternity Hospital on the Thursday.

“At this point Rachel was diagnosed with a condition called Fetal Hydrops. Things then moved very fast, with Claire going into labour early on the Saturday morning.”

David recounted his memory of that day: “My memory of Rachel being born is silence - complete silence. No crying, no baby noises, no gurgling noises; just complete silence. The Doctors and nurses worked so hard to do what they could but in that complete silence I knew that it was going to be vain. Rachel was with us for a couple of hours before she died in her mummy's arms surrounded by her family. Without doubt, this is the most difficult thing that we have had to experience. People say that no parent should have to bury their child and I can agree with this completely.

“The staff at the hospital were brilliant; providing such professional, high quality, compassionate care. Sands NI also provided us with fantastic support during this time. We received a memory box on the day Rachel died, which included a little blanket, a teddy bear and a camera for us to take photos with us.”

David and Claire both feel very passionate about the charity after receiving such positive support during what was such a very difficult time. The couple continued to find comfort and strength when they began attending the organisation’s Antrim support group a few weeks after Claire was discharged from hospital. The group, which meets every first Thursday evening of every month, provided them both with an opportunity to share, to listen, to cry, and to just sit there with other parents who had shared similar experiences.

“We want to give something back by helping to raise as much money as we can for them during Rachel's 10th birthday year. I (David) set myself a target to complete 10 cycling challenges during 2020. Then Covid pandemic hit and every single one got cancelled!

David with daughters Emily and Naomi after his lap of Lough Neagh

“So in August I decided I would do my own laps. First one was 99.8 mile lap of Lough Neagh. Then I did the 40 mile cycle on Sunday (25 October) around County Antrim with Ian and Leslie Irvine. Leslie is a midwife in Antrim Area Hospital and has firsthand experience of how families are impacted by the loss of a baby. She hasn’t cycled more than 5 miles before so 40 miles is incredible! Thank you Ian and Leslie for your incredible effort.”

Challenge lap 2 dedicated to the midwives

Cycle for Rachel 2 was wrapped up last weekend and David and Claire dedicated the second part of the challenge to all the midwives in our health service who do such an amazing job.

Going forward, David’s plan is now to do the remaining 8 cycle challenges next year.

David concluded: “Rachel went from our lives 10 years ago but she remains very much with us each and every day. 10 years ago somebody sent me a text which said, "An Angel in the book of life wrote down our Rachel's birth, then whispered, as she closed the book, "too beautiful for this earth.” That makes me smile now.”

David and Claire would very much appreciate if you were able to show your support for Cycle for Rachel and Sands NI by donating at the link below.

DONATE: www.justgiving.com/team/cycleforrachel