Real Life

Charlotte Sharratt: 'Our charity kept us going after the death of our baby'

After the devastating death of her baby daughter, Charlotte Sharratt refused to be beaten and created Libby Mae's Little Angels

The death of a child is the worst nightmare of any parent.

No matter what age the child is, the feeling of absolute despair is the same.

For Charlotte and Rich Sharratt, this nightmare became their reality three years ago.

Their beautiful baby girl, Libby Mae Sharratt, was born on April 26 2013 at Birmingham Women's Hospital.

She soon started to have difficulty breathing and was transferred immediately to Birmingham Children's Hospital's neo-natal unit after one week and place on intensive care.

The doctors found she had a heart condition, and so gave her altered medication and treatment. Libby then woke up, and Charlotte and Rich could finally hold their little girl, watch her open her eyes and experience the moment all parents look forward to – the moment she held their fingers.

But their family peace would soon be shattered. Scans showed that a vein in Libby's heart had not developed properly – and that she would never be able to breathe for herself.

There was nothing the doctors could do to save her.

Libby passed away in the arms of her mum and dad on May 9 at two weeks old.

Charlotte said: "I still think about her all the time, the anniversaries are the hardest.

"We imagine what she'd be doing at this or that age – but I think we're always going to do that for the rest of our lives. I hope we do to be honest, thinking about her every day and making the charity has made her stay a massive part of our lives."

At Libby's funeral, Charlotte and Rich asked for donations to the Birmingham Women's Hospital and raised £2,000 from the attendees. They then took a well-deserved week's break, and it was on this holiday that they decided to create the charity.

"We decided we wanted to make something good out of what happened, so we just threw ourselves into it straight away. Libby Mae's Little Angels became a registered charity on July 26, so it all happened really quickly.

"The charity is what kept us going. At the lowest point in our lives, it gave us something positive to focus on.

"It's lovely that so many people do know about Libby and that her memory is being kept alive through the charity."

The charity provides neo-natal units across the Midlands with vital equipment such as ventilators, incubators and infusion pumps.

Charlotte is excited about their newest venture: "We've introduced iPads to the wards.

"It's often the case that the baby might be transferred to another hospital, and it might be an area that's simply too far for the parents and extended family to travel to on a daily basis.

"It might also be the case that the mother had to have a C-Section and stay in hospital for a few days, so if the baby has been transferred to another hospital then they can at least still see the baby via video link on the iPad.

"Although they might not able to be there in person, this is the next best thing. It's one thing for the nurses to tell you that your baby is ok on the phone, but to actually see your baby for yourself can be more reassuring.

"As far as we know, no-one has used these in neo-natal wards before – that's brand new technology that we've been able to bring into the unit and it's already made a massive difference.

"The pride we feel when we get contacted by parents that have actually used the facilities that we've provided is a massive plus. We've had some amazing comments from that and it's just so heart-warming to hear that it's making a difference."

Libby Mae's Little Angels host fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for the charity, and this is where most of their donations come from.

They hold events throughout the year, and have now had many charity football matches where ex-professional football players have played against local celebrities. This year saw celebs such as Ralf Little (The Royle Family), Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet) and Phil Daniels (Quadrophenia, Eastenders) go up against ex-Arsenal players.

The charity also hosts Libby's Ball every year, a black tie event which was this year held at the MacDonald Burlington Hotel in the very heart of Birmingham City Centre. Guests pay an entry fee of £65 per person, and there are also auctions throughout the night. This year, they raised £17,000 in total.

"We never in our wildest dreams thought we'd get to where we are now.

"When we first set the charity up, we decided that we wanted to raise £10k in the first 12 months.

"We went on to raise £65k in the first year, and we're approaching a quarter of a million now!

"The charity has been going for just over three years – it's gone mad! But it's good and it's definitely something we want to carry on doing. We're hoping to help more and more people and we will hopefully spread the areas further."

The couple went on to have Riley, who will turn two in November.

Charlotte said: "I think about Libby all the time. It's hard to speak about, but now we have Riley I know what it's like – I know I'm a mum.

"I now know what it feels like to be a mum and have my child here with me. It's the best feeling in the world.

"When Riley was a baby, he was the spitting image of Libby, and that makes me think that they would have been very similar.

"We'll always think about Libby and what she might have done for the rest of our lives.

"But we wanted to make something positive instead of sitting around crying all day – it was the best thing we could have done."

Charlotte has been nominated for a Pride Of Britain Award - the ITV Fundraiser of the Year. She was nominated by her mum and several friends.

"I had absolutely no idea. We've been trying from day one to get on the local news, and obviously the more people that know about the charity, the more money you can raise.

"I had an email from ITV asking for a chat, and I thought 'great, they've heard about the annual ball', and I thought they might want to do a little piece on it.

"She then rang to tell me that I'd been nominated for a Pride Of Britain award and was a finalist for our region - I was amazed! I had no idea at all that I'd been nominated, let alone a finalist.

"As soon as I came off the phone, I burst into tears. We had an interview and when it was shown on ITV Central, we were getting an amazing amount of shares on social media and so many more page views on the site.

"People were messaging us saying they'd never heard of us before but that they really supported what we are trying to do."

Libby Mae's Little Angels are able to help save the lives of babies with the help of donations. You can help save a baby's life by donating here.

Closer magazine cover