Hello, we’re Andrea and John Kerslake and until a few years ago we were an average family, enjoying and experiencing the ups and downs that a life bringing up three kids brings. Little did we know however, what devastating lows were ahead of us. On 3rd March 2013 without warning, we lost our young son Elliot and we’d like to share our story with you.
On Sunday the 3rd March 2013 Elliot went for his usual afternoon sleep, as always, he had had a normal busy day. Excitedly entertaining his big sister Emily's friends who had had a sleepover following birthday celebrations, then watching his big brother Oliver play football from the touchline. Back home to play with his dinosaurs, have some lunch and then have his normal afternoon sleep. He never woke up, he was just 2 years old.
Elliot wasn't ill, he just had the usual toddler running nose. Our lives shattered that Sunday afternoon. We went from sorting out the evening meal and making sure Emily and Oliver's homework was all done for Monday back at school - to leaving Elliot behind in the hospital with just a leaflet in our hands for support.
When we left hospital on the 3rd March with only an advice leaflet in our hands we felt completely alone. Alone in the fact that we had to contemplate facing the future without our gorgeous little boy who had been such a huge part of our family life, but also alone in how we were supposed to support Emily and Oliver in their grief, support each other as a couple, deal with individual grief and keep our family together.
It took 12 weeks to get an initial cause of death, which was later challenged by a wider group of professionals. This we found out in a telephone call out of the blue. It then took 19 months to get an inquest which was an horrendous wait. As a mummy who put my son for an everyday sleep to have to wait so long to find out the cause and to finally hear it wasn’t my fault….caused such additional pain. We had to chase for every scrap of information at a time when we were devastated at our loss, when just putting one foot in front of the other felt an enormous achievement. We had two other children to protect so you just do it.
It was determined that Elliot died from 'natural causes'. That a virus attacked his brain whilst he slept but sadly attacked the area of the brain that controlled his breathing and heart rate ..... he didn't stand a chance said the coroner. If the virus had attacked any other part of his brain he would have woken up, started a fever, let us know and he would have had hope. It was so hard to hear the words 'natural causes' in relation to the death of our two year old.
We feel that the systems and processes surrounding Elliot's death don't consider the bereaved family who is left grieving and trying to cope. It has often felt that the stress and strain that these delays are causing on us are not of interest and that our needs don't matter.
Everyone kept saying 'losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent' .... so we, along with other professionals and friends were shocked at the lack of support that was available to help us navigate the processes and even begin to cope with the grief of our family. We also didn't feel the schools had the resources or training needed to properly support Emily and Oliver, instead they saw bereavement as a behavioural problem.
So we founded Elliot's Footprint. We don't want any other family to feel the same desperate isolation and loneliness as we did and have to fight for every scrap of detail about their child. We know we can never take away the horrendous pain of a family, but if we can ease it the tiniest bit - then we will.
We live on with a new mission to keep Elliot's loving and caring spirit alive through Elliot's Footprint. Through Elliot's Footprint we vow to help other families who sadly find themselves in this strange world we now belong to, we'll reach out and guide them through - just as Elliot would have done in life.