Category Archives: Riverbank (Children’s Ward)

TOMMY’S BUBBLES: So Perfect…So Fragile. Reflections on a neonatal death

So fragile

So pefect…so fragile

Tommy was a beautiful baby; I’ve seen the photos! But after a 10 day fight he passed away in the arms of his lovely Mom Amy along with Dad Chris in the parents room of a West Midlands Hospital.

I’d seen them before; I buried their other son Jayden who died in the womb at 20-something weeks gestation a year ago.

And when Amy and Chris contacted me to tell me that Tommy had died it broke my heart. That it should happen at anyone is tragic; that it should happen to this couple for the second time in one year is without words. And when they asked me to take their son’s funeral, well…

And on the day of the funeral family and friends turned up to pay their respects. Each person was given a pot of bubbles and, at the request of Mom and Dad, I was asked to invite those present to blow their bubbles- which they did – all except me! Why? Because, whilst I managed to get the top off the bubbles, I couldn’t get the wand out. And the more I tried, the slippier my fingers became and the more impossible the task. I told the people at the funeral about this, and they laughed! They knw what I’m like.

The service proceeded, and it was at the point in the service when we were all listening to a piece of music as a reflection, that I succeeded…the bubbles were open. And from behind the lectern, where I was sitting listening with others, I blew bubbles for Tommy. Important, because in his short life amongst us Tommy blew lots of bubbles, and his parents wanted to mark that aspect of his time with us.

They’d told me so much more than this of course. Of his beautiful black hair; his beautiful eyes; the way in which, whilst he would play up for the midwives, he would open his eyes when Mom spoke to him, and curl his little hand around Dad’s finger. Of how he was a fighter, and fought for 10 days (‘stubborn like his mom’) and when he passed away ‘he seemed to wave goodbye with his hand.’ Of how they still sleep with his blanket which holds the smell of him.

And still I blew my bubbles, in the crematorium chapel, and in my mind a picture formed. The picture of something so perfect, and yet so fragile. And one of the bubbles landed on the floor, it stayed for just a little while longer than the others; and just as I thought it might stay forever, it was gone.

At the graveside, after the service in the Chapel, we laid him to rest with his brother Jayden whose funeral I remembered as if it were yesterday. “One on top of another,” said Mum, “like the bunk beds we would have had for them.”

That was a while ago now. I still think about Amy and Chris, of Tommy and Jayden and of all the family. I have met some incredible people in my life; some inspirational people in my work as Chaplain; and Amy and Chris are up there at the top. I wish them good fortune, happiness and peace.

And the other day I saw some bubbles…

…just some kids playing and havig fun…… but guess who I thought of?




There is a particular dynamic to being in Hospital when the patient is your child. The worry, anxiety and concern (take it from someone who knows) is at times overwhelming. In situations like this you want excellent care, support and understanding.

Riverbank is the Children’s ward at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. I don’t have that much occasion to visit it but when I do the staff are always so kind. And that is matched by some tales by children and parents. So here are some “Tales from the Riverbank.”

“From the time we arrived on Bank Holiday Monday, we have received the best care and attention. Special mention to Vicky and Lyndsey our nurses (thanks for the balloon monkey), for Stacey our main nurse on 3 nights. She gave [N] lots of care and support when he felt so ill. You kept us informed all the time, to Mr. Pandi and the great surgeon who did the op (sorry forgot name) and all the staff, nurses support staff, cleaners whom all worked so hard.”

“Fabulous service. very calm and clean. Always smiling and cheerful. No faults at all.”

“Pleasant, helpful staff. Relaxed feel which was reassuring. Good clear explanations about medical issues. Thank you! ”

“My son and I were treated with kindness and thoughtfulness and respect. All staff most helpful and cheerful. The room was most comfortable and clean. Thank you for making a long weekend very bearable.”
“Nursing staff on Riverbank are outstanding. Always ready to listen, comfort, care and make you feel safe. Although we didn’t want to be here, the stay was made easier by their caring natures. Always ready to answer questions. WHAT A FANTASTIC TEAM!”

And my favourites, from a young person and a child:

“I found the service to be top quality and brilliant. All the nurses and doctors have been supportive and helpful with trying to get me back to normal. I thank them for all their support and wish the same for all hospital patients who are ill and wish other hospitals were like this one!”

And finally, from a 5 year old, in her own hand:“I like it has bit elli put in on miy banth on” (with two pictures of smiley faces).
Someone (?Mum) gives the translation or her own views: “All the staff were amazing especially Sarah who looked after [N]; always friendly and smiling