Family stories

Finlay’s story

Gemma, Kevin and their two daughters, Fearne, 7, and Ivy, 3, from Shoreham share Finlay’s story. How they feel about Chestnut Tree House. And how we helped them when Finlay sadly passed away in 2012.

On 26 January 2012, Gemma and Kevin welcomed their baby boy, Finlay, into the world. Finlay was a happy baby boy, but the family soon discovered that he was born with a major heart condition.

Gemma’s story

“We didn’t know he had a heart condition until after he was born, so at just one day old he had a scan and was rushed to London so they could assess him” says Mum, Gemma.

At this point, Finlay’s family were told that he would need at least three separate surgeries in the first five years of his life.

“Sadly, Finlay’s condition deteriorated so he had surgery very quickly. They wanted to wait for the surgery, but his organs were shutting down so quickly they could not wait any longer. The surgery was successful, but his recovery was uncertain. He fought for longer than the Doctors thought possible.”

At just three weeks and three days old, Finlay sadly passed away.

“We weren’t ready to say goodbye and the team at the hospital knew that. They searched for a local children’s hospice where we could go, and they found Chestnut Tree House.”

The following day, the family went to Chestnut Tree House where they could spend some special time with Finlay and say goodbye in their own way. Chestnut Tree House cares for families after the death of a child or young person, offering use of their ‘Stars’ bereavement suite.

“At the time I was scared, I was expecting it to be like another hospital. But it wasn’t like that at all. It was bright and colourful, and there were lots of lovely smiley faces. They looked after us there for two weeks, they supported us and they helped us plan Finlay’s funeral. But most importantly they made sure that we had time with Finlay.”

Two images - one of baby Finlay sleeping and one of Gemma holding Finlay

“Being there at Chestnut Tree House with Finlay was the most precious time for us, it meant that we could say goodbye in our own time. We are so grateful and always will be.”

Every year, the family still make sure that they visit their special place, Chestnut Tree House, on Finlay’s birthday. “We always take the children and their families presents. We also attend their Summer and Winter remembrance services. Some people may not understand why we go back every year, but it’s a real comfort to us, and we feel close to Finlay whilst we are there so of course we are going to go and visit, and we will carry on doing that forever.”

Gemma and the family

“I don’t know where we would be without Chestnut Tree House, their bereavement support, care, and love over the years. We will be forever grateful.”

- Gemma