It was supposed to be a time of happiness and excitement, after Chris Richardson and Shannon Whiting discovered they would be parents for the first time.
But sheer elation would turn to utter despair, when they were told that their unborn baby had a rare heart defect and his chance of survival was very low.
Their ‘beautiful little boy’ had been diagnosed with hypoplastic right heart syndrome (HRHS) – a malformation of the chambers, valves and related blood vessels on the right side of the heart.
Tragically, the devastated Shilbottle couple lost Ronan Eli Richardson when Shannon was 23 weeks pregnant.
In their own words, they have endured ‘the worst thing that anyone can go through’ and the ordeal has left them ‘heartbroken’.
But the inspirational pair are not hiding away. Instead, they are focusing their efforts on helping others – to try to prevent families and couples from suffering the same pain that they have had to endure.
Determined Shannon and Chris want to raise awareness about HRHS and have started a fund-raising campaign for Little Hearts Matter – a charity helping anyone affected by the diagnosis of single ventricle heart condition.
Shannon, 21, said: “I was 23 weeks pregnant when we lost our beautiful little boy to HRHS, switched valves and a hole in the heart.
“When we first heard the news we had absolutely no idea what this syndrome was and we found out that it was extremely rare and his chance of survival would be very low.
“We were heartbroken and with not enough research about it, we were at a loss.
“Now, we are trying to raise awareness so that other people don’t have to feel the confusion we did while having to go through something so traumatic and life-changing.
“If we can raise awareness and money and stop others from going through what we have gone through, then something good has come out of something so tragic.”
It was not until the 20-week scan that Shannon and Chris, 24, found out that there was an issue with Ronan’s heart. Subsequent tests at Newcastle RVI revealed the full extent of the problem and their unborn baby might not survive.
Shannon said: “I was in shock and Chris was in disbelief. We realised how serious it was and the reality hit home and we both cried.”
Sadly, Ronan didn’t make it. Shannon was induced at the end of March and gave birth to her still-born son. Shannon and Chris had Ronan blessed.
Shannon said: “We have been through the worst thing that anyone can go through. It has been really difficult and we see the world differently now.
“But this has made us even stronger as a couple and the support that Chris has given me has been amazing.
“We would like to thank everyone for their support, especially the medical staff who have been brilliant.”
Having experienced the trauma of losing a child, the couple have not ruled out trying to conceive again.
Shannon said: “We had tests to see if Ronan’s heart defect was genetic, but it was not, so I think we can have happy and healthy babies – only time will tell what happens.”
The couple’s online fund-raising page for Little Hearts Matter can be found at tinyurl.com/ybdmfaea
Chris said: “This charity is important to us. It does great work and we want to do our part for others going through what we’ve been through.”
They also plan to hold a fund-raising event at Alnwick’s Blue Bell Inn at the start of August – around the same time as what Shannon’s due date was.