Keepsake box for stillborns

Heartbroken Kirsty McGurrell spent just four precious hours with her baby.

What should have been the happiest day of her life quickly turned into the saddest when doctors failed to find the newborn's heartbeat.

The first-time mum, 21, thought little Louis Knight was trying to make an early entry into the world when she felt stomach pains 12 days before his due date.

But when doctors could find no trace of the youngster's heartbeat, Kirsty had to give birth knowing she would never see her child grow up.

His family got to spend just a few hours with Louis.

"I was devastated, I couldn't believe it was happening," said Kirsty, of Morris Terrace, Houghton. "It was impossible not to hear the other babies crying on the ward.

"But the grief turned to joy when we saw him for the first time, I didn't expect it to be like that. He just looked as though he was sleeping."

Louis' family are waiting for the results of the post-mortem examination to find out why he died, but it is thought it may have been because of a complication with the umbilical cord.

They marked his short life with a funeral at Durham Crematorium.

Kirsty said: "You go into hospital expecting to have a baby, but you leave with nothing. You don't realise how many women it happens to. In Sunderland it's about eight a year and nationally there are about 17 stillbirths a day."

Now Louis' name will live on in a charity set up to help families of stillborn babies.

Along with her parents Bob, 43, and Tracey, 41, and Louis' dad Michael, Kirsty has set up 4Louis, which is aiming to distribute keepsake boxes in hospitals in the region.

The boxes contain a clay impression cast to make moulds of the baby's hands and feet, a box for a first curl, a glass guardian angel, a candle, two teddies (one for mum and one for baby), a rose representing Louis and a card from Kirsty.

The first batch of boxes, which are hand-made by Kirsty and Tracey, were delivered to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The family hopes fund-raising drives will help them to create boxes, which are free to families, for hospitals around the region.

Bob, of Bourn Lea, Shiney Row, said: " The hospital were fantastic, but we wanted people to have a lasting memory of the child.

"Families don't know this is going to happen, so they can't rush out and buy these things, that's why they need to be in the hospitals."

As part of the fund-raising drive, which will also pay for other items needed on the maternity ward, volunteers will be taking part in sponsored walks while events such as raffles will also be held.

To learn more search 4Louis on Facebook.