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01 February 2017

Mum who spent 16 days with dead baby daughter taking her body for walks in pram shares heartbreaking photos

Charlotte Szakacs and husband Attila made the agonising decision to tell their story to help others after baby Evlyn was born with devastating birth defects

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Charlotte Szakacs with husband Attila and their daughter Evlyn (Photo: Mercury Press and Media Ltd)

A mum who spent more than two weeks with her dead baby girl has shared heartbreaking photos from the experience – as she took her daughter’s body home and even for walks in a pram.

Brave Charlotte Szakacs, 21, and her husband Attila, 28, were given the devastating news their baby girl Evlyn had a debilitating chromosome abnormality after a 20-week scan in September 2016.

When Evlyn was born on December 13 at Leeds General Infirmary weighing 5lbs 5oz, she had an underdeveloped brain which was completely smooth, narrow airways in her nose and lungs and a narrow aorta.

And despite battling against the odds for four weeks, the tot passed away in her parents’ arms on January 10.

Paint technician Charlotte and engineer Attila stayed at the hospice for 12 days while Evlyn was kept in a refrigerated ‘cuddle cot’ and were allowed to take her out for family walks – before the first-time parents took Evlyn home for four days before her funeral on January 26.

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Charlotte takes her daughter for a walk in her pram (Photo: Mercury Press and Media Ltd)

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Baby Evlyn was born with major health problems (Photo: Mercury Press and Media Ltd)

Charlotte, from York, said: “So many people have never heard of parents being able to spend that time with their babies and other mums reached out to me saying they think it would have helped so I really want to raise awareness.

“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.

“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, it really helped emotionally.

“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.

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The young couple pictured with their baby girl in hospital (Photo: Mercury Press and Media Ltd)

“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.

“But over the next week she got worse and worse and we knew we could either watch our little girl die in a hospital, on a ventilator, surrounded by doctors and beeping machines or let her go peacefully in a lovely hospice.

“It was the hardest decision you could ever make as parents but I knew keeping her at the hospital would just be selfish.

“Evlyn was moved to the hospice on January 10 and I have never seen her so calm. We got to hold her and cuddle her properly for the first time for an hour before they turned off the ventilator.

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Charlotte during her pregnancy after spending more than a year trying to conceive (Photo: Mercury Press and Media Ltd)

“She passed away just a couple of minutes after they took out her breathing tube. She was so weak she didn’t take a single breath.

“I was holding her in my arms as she went and her dad had his arms around us both.

“We stayed at the hospice for 12 days and would take Evlyn out of her cuddle cot for five to 10 minutes for cuddles or to go for walks around the garden with her.

“And then we were allowed to take Evlyn and her cuddle cot home for the last four days. Her last night she slept in her actual cot we had got for her in our room.”

Charlotte and Attila, who married in 2015, had been trying for a baby for more than a year when they found out they were expecting the day before Charlotte’s 21st birthday on April 29.

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The couple spent two weeks with their tragic youngster’s body (Photo: Mercury Press and Media Ltd)

The first-time mum had a completely normal pregnancy until a 20-week scan revealed Evlyn’s brain was not developing properly and she had a hypoplastic aortic arch.

Doctors investigated and amniotic fluid tests revealed Evlyn had unbalanced chromosome translocation – a genetic condition that can go unnoticed in parents but in the baby’s development causes two chromosome to switch places, resulting in missing and extra genes.

Charlotte had to have scans every two weeks throughout her pregnancy and at 37 weeks, Evlyn was delivered by caesarean as the blood flow to her mum’s placenta had started to fail.

The newborn was rushed to a ventilator as soon as she was born and mum Charlotte did not get to see her for seven hours – and could not hold her for three days.

Evlyn’s narrowed airways meant she could not breathe on her own and so could not have the heart surgery she needed to survive.

But even if the little girl had pulled through, doctors told her parents she would have faced a life with hearing, sight and speech problems and severe mental and physical disabilities.

While Charlotte would give anything to have her daughter with her, the mum said she knows that Evlyn is in a better place.

After sharing her experience of having those 16 days with Evlyn, Charlotte realised a lot of people were unaware that the option was there for grieving parents and she now wants to raise awareness.

Charlotte said: “When we got the news after the 20-week scan, Attila and I completely broke down. I think we broke down more then than when we lost her because at that point we just had no idea what it all meant.

“The last thing you want as a parent is for your child to be sick and even after we were told she would probably never breathe on her own, we still clung onto this tiny bit of hope that she would.

“Not being able to hold her for so long was really difficult and even when we could hold her, the nurses had to pick her up and place her on us so you don’t really feel like you’re being a mum.

A spokeswoman for Martin House hospice, where Evlyn stayed, said: “At Martin House we support families in a place of their choosing, either at home, within the hospice or in hospital setting.

“Our emphasis is always on the family’s wishes. We work hard to balance their hopes, expectations and the need they feel to be parents with the specialist palliative care offered by our team.

“Whatever life-limiting condition a baby may have, the involvement of children’s hospices like Martin House allows families to make informed choices about their care and make the most of the precious, and often limited, time they have with their baby.

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