When Charlotte and Attila Szakacs lost their baby girl, they couldn’t bear to say goodbye. So with this in mind, the hospice that had supported them through their daughter’s death gave them the opportunity to spend more time with their child. And thanks to technology, they had an extra 16 days together.
Charlotte and Attila come from the village of New Earswick near York in England. She works as a paint technician, while he is an engineer. However, perhaps the role that each of them desired most in the world was that of a parent.
So Charlotte and Attila began trying for a baby not long after their 2015 wedding. For an entire year, though, they had no luck conceiving. But then Charlotte got the best early 21st birthday present in April 2016 when she discovered that she was finally expecting.
And as far as Charlotte could tell, her pregnancy got off to a normal start. At the 20-week scan, however, the couple were dealt a devastating blow. For it was then that doctors discovered that their little girl’s brain was significantly underdeveloped and that she also had hypoplastic aorta – a heart defect that affects blood flow.
Further tests revealed that Charlotte and Attila’s unborn baby had unbalanced chromosome translocation. This genetic condition causes two chromosomes to switch, leading to missing and extra genes. The severity of the condition depends entirely on which chromosomes are affected.
Given the uncertainty of their child’s condition, doctors asked Charlotte and Attila if they wanted to have a termination. But the couple chose to continue. And because of this, their baby would require scans every two weeks to monitor her progress.
At 37 weeks, doctors discovered that blood was beginning to not flow to Charlotte’s placenta. As a result, Charlotte’s medical team decided to deliver her daughter early, via cesarean section, at Leeds General Infirmary.
So, on December 13, 2016, Charlotte and Attila welcomed their first born, a little girl named Evlyn. She weighed five pounds and five ounces. However, her parents had to wait to hold their precious bundle of joy in their arms.
That’s because doctors rushed little Evlyn to a ventilator as soon as she was born. In 2017 Charlotte told York-based newspaper The Press, “We managed to get a picture when she was born, but she was taken straight away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We waited seven hours to see her for the first time and waited three days for our first amazing cuddle.”
Subsequent scans revealed that on top of her underdeveloped brain, Evlyn had complications in her lungs and problems with her airways. This meant that she was unable to breathe by herself and would therefore be unable to undergo the heart surgery required to save her life. Unsurprisingly, this was a bitter pill for her devastated parents to swallow.
In an interview obtained by The Daily Telegraph in 2017, Charlotte revealed, “After she was born, the doctors told us we should think about moving her to a hospice. But I wasn’t ready, and I didn’t want to believe what they were saying.”
As the days passed, however, Charlotte and Attila realized that the hospice was the best place for their little girl to die. “It was the hardest decision you could ever make as parents, but I knew keeping her at the hospital would just be selfish,” Charlotte revealed.
After a four-week battle, Evlyn passed away in January 2017 at the Martin House Hospice in Wetherby. Before her death, her mom and dad got to cuddle their little girl properly for the first time. Then, just one hour later, the infant died in the mother’s arms.
But while their baby had passed, Charlotte and Attila didn’t have to say goodbye just yet. Rather, they chose to stay at the hospice for a further 12 days, while Evlyn’s little body was kept cool with the help of a refrigerated CuddleCot.
During these precious days, the grieving parents were able to cuddle their tot and take her for walks around the hospice garden. Later, Charlotte revealed that being able to spend time with their baby “really helped emotionally.”
Charlotte explained, “I know it might not be the best option for everyone, but for us it was so important to be able to have that family time – and just properly cuddle our little girl.” She added, “I think having the time with her made such a difference. Being able to do so many of the things you imagine like taking her out in her pram.”
After their 12 days at the hospice, Charlotte and Attila brought Evlyn home for four days before her funeral. “I was really nervous about bringing her home because I didn’t know if it would feel right, but it was so nice to have her there. And it wasn’t just for us but for Evlyn, so she got to come home,” Charlotte said.
On their final night with Evlyn, Charlotte and Attila put their baby to bed in the cot they had set up in their bedroom before her birth. The next day, they laid Evlyn to rest. And although the funeral was difficult for her parents to bear, Charlotte took some comfort in the fact that her daughter was now in “a better place.”
After Evelyn’s death, her parents have worked hard to honor her memory by raising awareness of infant mortality and the options, such as the CuddleCot, open to grieving parents. Thanks to this product, after all, Charlotte and Attila were given the precious gift of time with their daughter.
Charlotte explained, “So many people have never heard of parents being able to spend that time with their babies and other mothers reached out to me saying they think it would have helped. So I really want to raise awareness.”