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Marathon challenge for grieving mother on a special mission

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WHEN baby Eva Hopper was stillborn four years ago, within only weeks of her due date, her parents’ world was naturally turned upside down.

And among the overwhelming grief was the shock of learning how many other parents go through similar losses each year.

Now Eva’s mother, Lynsey, is on a mission to raise awareness by running the London Marathon this year in memory of her daughter, documenting her journey towards the event on social media.

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But the primary school teacher, from Prestwick in South Ayrshire, also wants to raise funds for Sands (the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society), the charity that helped her and her husband as they navigated the loss of their daughter.

Mrs Hopper, 37, said: “The loss of Eva was a massive shock after what had been a very textbook pregnancy up until that point.

“To hear that Eva was going to be born sleeping was absolutely devastating and it still is to this day – it’s going to be devastating forever.

“But I now feel strong enough and brave enough to share her story.”

It was after noticing reduced movement, just hours after the joyful event of her baby shower, that Mrs Hopper sought medical attention, only to learn that there was no heartbeat.

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Reflecting on the days that followed, she said: “Eva came herself. It was the only opportunity I was going to get for us to have that moment together.

“I was scared – I didn’t know what it would be like, but she just looked like she was asleep. It was like a rush of love.

“Sands had a bereavement room for us and organised a memory box. We had been expecting to leave with a baby and we left with a box, but we were glad to have it in the circumstances.”

Now Mrs Hopper is preparing to run the London Marathon on October 2, documenting her training towards tackling the 26.2-mile route on Instagram as she endeavours to raise awareness of baby loss.

According to Sands, every day in the UK about 13 babies die before, during or soon after

birth – that means nearly every two hours a family is faced with the devastation of the death of their baby.

The organisation works in partnership with healthcare professionals, trusts and health boards, and offers a range of training programmes and bereavement care resources to ensure that bereaved parents receive “the best possible care wherever they are in the UK”.

Sands also supports and promotes research to better understand the causes of baby deaths to save babies’ lives and works with governments and other stakeholders to make reducing the number of babies dying a priority nationally and locally.

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Mrs Hopper, who is married to financial planner Grahame and is now also mother to daughters Rosa, three, and Ada, one, said: “Eva was here with us for such a short time but her story is massive and on behalf of her, and all the other baby boys and girls who are born sleeping, or who pass shortly after birth, then we need to raise vital awareness to prevent this happening because the numbers are far too high. In a country such as ours, the numbers should not be this high so we need to raise awareness.

“My husband and I had our lives turned upside down in an instant. To this day we have no idea how we were able to leave hospital without our baby girl.

“Our wish would be that no mummy or daddy had to endure the heartache of saying goodbye to their son or daughter far too soon.

“Sadly, though, the number of babies lost to stillbirth and neonatal death is still far too high.

“This is why the work of Sands is so important. It’s vital that parents going through such loss are supported and that there continues to be vital research into the causes of loss, in the aim of preventing it happening.”

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Nicola Knight, Sands’ senior community engagement and supporter events officer, said: “We are so grateful to Lynsey for running this year’s London Marathon in memory of her daughter Eva while raising funds for Sands.

“The funds she’s raising will allow us to continue to save babies’ lives and be there for anyone affected by the loss of their baby. She’s going to be amazing and we can’t wait to cheer her round the route on the big day.”

More information is available on Mrs Hopper’s marathon journey at www.instagram.com/running_with_eva/

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