CRADLING newborn baby Matthew in her arms, proud mum Rachael Wells can’t wait to tell him about his older brother – even though the two children will never meet.
The 27-year-old from Alnwick gave birth on New Year’s Day, just nine months after her first child Joshua died having suddenly contracted pneumococcal meningitis, the deadliest strain of the disease. He was just seven-and-a-half months old.
His death on March 17 caused a massive outpouring of grief in the community, while raising serious concerns about the way his illness was handled by doctors who were accused of failing to acknowledge just how poorly he was.
But unknown to Rachael and partner Darren Prime, 41, she had fallen pregnant again just two weeks earlier.
And despite the unimaginable heartbreak of 2011, the new year was welcomed in with the arrival, at 4.50pm, of a bouncing baby boy weighing a healthy eight pounds and six ounces.
“I didn’t realise I was expecting again until seven or eight weeks after Joshua had died,” said Rachael, who works as a data manager. “I was shocked that I was pregnant and to think that he had survived all that turmoil of that first few weeks, without us knowing he was there.
“You could say we have been very lucky. He looks so much like Joshua.”
Darren added: “He was due on December 23 and I was hoping for a Christmas birthday, but nine days later he’s still the best present we could have ever had. I took a month off work to make sure I was here when Rachael needed me.
“Everyone who supported us through losing Joshua is over the moon. We were getting calls and text messages all the way up to his birth, asking whether he had arrived yet. Our friends and family have been unbelievable over the last year and we can’t thank them enough.”
On choosing their son’s name, Rachael said: “We had thought about calling him Matthew, but it was when the vicar told us that it meant ‘precious gift from God’ that we knew how special the meaning was to us. We also gave him the middle names Joshua and John, after his big brother and his grandad.
“We’ll definitely tell him about his brother when he’s older – he’ll know all about him.”
In the wake of Joshua’s death, a Forever Fund was set up through the Meningitis UK charity, which bears his name.
To date it has raised just over £25,000, with almost £3,000 of that coming from a sponsored Zumbathon held in November.
Joshua was buried at Alnwick Cemetery following his funeral at St Michael’s Church on March 24.
Rachael added: “We would like to thank the staff on the delivery suite at the RVI and give a special thanks to all the staff at Hillcrest Maternity Unit in Alnwick for all their support, help and kindness during our pregnancy and postnatal care.”