Eleven grieving mums stand united at the top of Snowdon to shine a light on a cruel condition that has robbed each one of them of a beloved child.
They have all lost a son or daughter to sudden unexplained death in childhood – but say too little is known about the condition.
The mums climbed the Welsh mountain in September to raise awareness – and £8,000 – for SUDC UK, a charity co-founded by Dr Nikki Speed, 43, of Hertfordshire.
She and husband Tom found one of their four children – Rosie, two – dead in her bed in 2013.
Nikki says: “To this day we still don’t know how she died. We felt like the only people in the world this had happened to. But three years later, we met two parents who had been through the same awful thing and we decided to set up the charity.”
Deaths from another fatal childhood condition, sudden infant death syndrome, have plummeted by 80% since the spotlight was turned on it 30 years ago, according to SIDS charity The Lullaby Trust.
Medical experts say more research is needed into SUDC, which kills around 40 children aged one to 18 each year in the UK.
Nikki hopes there will soon be a debate in parliament after they won support from MPs Kwasi Kwarteng and Dr Ben Spencer. Dr Spencer said: “I will work with SUDC to raise this issue and the need for additional support with the NHS and ministers.”
The Snowdon mums include Tamzin Maynard, whose son Jude died aged seven, and Jane Smith, who lost her daughter in 2019. The eight other mums tell their stories here today…
Kimberley Shepherd, 38, and Liam
Teacher Kimberley Shepherd lost her only child, 11-year-old Liam, in March 2021. Bravely recalling his last day, she said: “Liam had a normal day at school. Afterwards we went to the beach and park. He was tired so he went to bed.
“When I went to wake him in the morning he had died in his sleep.” Kimberley, 38, of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, added: “Losing a child changes you as a person, but being with the other mums climbing Snowdon meant I could just be myself.
“I’m the only one who hasn’t got other kids so it was challenging emotionally. But we all did it for our children.”
Julia Rogers, 41, and Louis
Marketing manager Julia Rogers said her son Louis had three febrile seizures before he died at just 22 months old. The mum, 41, of Shepperton, Surrey, said she and husband Christian took him to hospital each time “and were sent home with Calpol”.
On the day Louis died in June 2021, Julia put him to bed for a nap with her daughter Thea, now seven. But she said: “An hour later I realised I hadn’t heard any sounds on the baby monitor. I went to check but he had already passed away.
“Doctors think he may have had another seizure. I felt so isolated until I met other mums who had lost children like this.”
Sharon Anderson, 39, and Tobias
Shocked Sharon Anderson was at work in a hospital operating department when her 14-month-old, Tobias, was rushed in and died. After he collapsed at home in May 2020, his sister Emily, 16, gave him CPR. But despite her efforts, and those of hospital staff, little Tobias could not be saved.
Sharon, 39, of Bushey, Herts, who has two other children with husband James, said: “I didn’t know anything was wrong until we answered the emergency bleep… and I saw my son lying there. I knew in my heart he was gone.
“Tests were done for nine months but they couldn’t find what had happened.”
Kate Walsh, 50, and Patrick
Reaching the top of Snowdon meant Kate Walsh kept a long-held promise to her teenage son, Patrick. The 15-year-old, from Witney, Oxon, was running for a bus with his brother after a football match when he collapsed and died in January 2020.
School business manager Kate, 50, who also has two grown-up children with husband Liam, 53, said: “At the top of Snowdon there is a quote that says you are nearer to heaven.
“When Patrick was three, we went to the foot of Snowdon and I promised him we would climb it one day. So it was a promise I was keeping to him.”
Camilla Gooden, 48, and Rex
After Camilla Gooden lost her youngest son, Rex, she became a nutritional therapist in a bid to protect her three other children. Husband Paul had put the 22-month-old down for a nap in February 2015 – but when he later went to wake Rex, the tot was “unresponsive”.
SUDC UK co-founder Camilla, 48, of Westerham, Kent, said: “I became so paranoid about the other children I trained as a nutritional therapist to understand their immune systems. The hardest thing when a child dies is… you have to carry on.
“Snowdon was made more special because the other mums were there.”
Claire Bowie, 45, and Thomas
Grateful Claire Bowie draws great strength from sharing her heartbreak with the other mums. She lost 20-month-old Thomas in 2012 after she gave him some Calpol for a cold and put him to bed.
She said: “When I went to check on him, I knew something was wrong straight away as he was so still…”
Claire, 45, of Fleet, Hants, also has two daughters with husband Ronnie. She said: “When we lost Thomas I felt so alone. But meeting Nikki and Camilla was such a relief. I felt like we were fighting together.”
Clare Smith, 41, and Harry
Mum Clare Smith says more research into SUDC is desperately needed to help grieving parents. She put her little boy Harry down for a nap in April 2018 – and just 50 minutes later found the beloved 20-month-old had passed away.
Clare, 41, who has three other children with husband Lee in Yearsley, North Yorks, said: ”I got him to hospital, but nothing could be done. I think there should be much more research because parents are put under scrutiny in that situation – and it’s already such a traumatic time.”
Becca Luisi, 42, and Kiana
Paramedic Becca Luisi found daughter Kiana dead in bed in November, 2005 – two days before the tot’s second birthday.
The mum of two other children, from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, said: “Kiana had no signs of a cold, fever or seizure and went to bed that night fine and happy. The coroner told me, ‘We can put a man on the moon, but I can’t explain why your beautiful, healthy child went to bed and never woke up’.”
Becca, 42, has walked miles to raise SUDC funds. She said: “We do it in our children’s memories so they didn’t die in vain.”