Horsham dad to cycle London to Paris in memory of 2½-day-old daughter who died last year
A Horsham dad is set to cycle more than 330 miles from London to Paris in memory of his daughter who died at just two and a half days old.
Chris Kowalkowski will be joined by brother Richard Kowalkowski and good friend Ben Glennon for the Ride4Ruby fundraiser, with the hope of raising £5,000 for The Little Roo Neonatal Fund.
The long-distance bike ride will begin on Saturday, April 4, from St Peter’s Hospital in London, where Chris and wife Helen’s daughter Ruby sadly passed away last year.
Chris said: “I’m nervous about the ride - I am confident we will complete it, but none of us are professional cyclists. Usually a weekend bike ride is to the pub.
“This is going to be the furthest bike ride any of us have ever done for a pint at the end of it, but I get the feeling it will be a well earned one. Ruby deserved so much more and if this is something I can do to show her how much I love her, I would do it over and over again.”
Ruby was born full term on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, at East Surrey Hospital after having what Helen describes as a textbook pregnancy and labour.
However, during the final stages of labour Ruby did not receive oxygen and therefore, after resuscitation, she was left with a brain injury called Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE).
Mum Helen, who is organising the event while still on maternity leave, said: “Ruby was later transferred to Ashford and St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey where she was very closely monitored in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).
“Chris and I were able to stay in one of the five family rooms in the NICU whilst our immediate family stayed closed by.
“Ruby tried so hard for two and a half days, however there was sadly no improvement on her brain activity and therefore we, as her mummy and daddy, had to make the worst decision anyone should ever have to make, and that was to remove her life support.
“On Friday, June 7, at 6.57pm we said goodnight to our beautiful, dark haired baby girl, Ruby.
“Whilst this was the hardest thing we have ever had to go through, we were able to do it with such dignity and care with thanks to her ‘NICU Aunties’ who were with us every step of our journey.”
Helen and Chris say the care and support they were given by the nurses and team at the hospital was ‘out of this world’.
“We got to do all the normal things any mummy and daddy should be able to do,” said Helen. “We stayed together as a family for a further three days in the Daffodil Bereavement Room.
“This time was so precious, as we continued to care for Ruby, cuddle her and make more memories with the help of Ruby’s daily dedicated nurse.
“We are not able to thank everyone involved in Ruby’s care enough - without them, we would have been unable to spend such special moments together as a family and create so many treasured memories.”
The Ride4Ruby team are hoping people and businesses will support them to help reach the £5,000 target for The Little Roo Neonatal Fund which was set up by a team of doctors, nurses, parents and support staff and as part of the Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals Charitable Trust with the specific aim of supporting the NICU.
Helen said: “St Peter’s is the only hospital in Surrey with the appropriate staff, equipment, skills and experience to provide this highest level of intensive care for the smallest and sickest newborn babies.
“There is always an ongoing need for additional and replacement specialist equipment, and also to send staff for specialist training that the NHS cannot provide funding for.”
Chris, Richard and Ben aim to reach Paris on Wednesday, April 8 while Ben’s wife Helen Glennon will be joining them as the support vehicle.
Ruby’s mum Helen said: “I am so proud of Chris and the boys for taking part in Ride4Ruby. It’s incredibly sad the reason behind why Ride4Ruby is taking place, but Ruby made us incredibly proud parents, it’s now our turn as her mummy and daddy to make her proud and show her that she will always live on.
“It is going to be a very emotional journey for the three of them, but also for me and our family waving them off at the start point.
“It feels like moments ago we were at the hospital having cuddles with Ruby and what will be ten months later we will be doing something to remember her by.
“It’s just something you never imagine you will ever have to go through. I feel one very proud wife and mummy.”
To donate, visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/ride4ruby2020