Natalie’s Story


At 20 weeks pregnant Natalie and Callum Laidlaw discovered that their son Vinnie had a single ventricle anatomy – he had just half a functioning heart – and had no more than a 60% chance of surviving to school age.

A huge blow for the family, because Natalie’s sister Nicola passed away at six weeks old of the same condition.

Sat in the waiting room, hearing Vinnie’s diagnosis, they didn’t know what to do or who to talk to.

They were put in touch with Little Hearts Matter through the foetal medicine team at the RVI. Natalie spoke to Suzie the very next day for over an hour. Natalie says “Suzie simplified everything to us, she introduced us to a world of support we didn’t know existed. She explained the medical terminology, and made everything easier to understand.”

Devastating news

Vinnie stopped moving 34 weeks into Natalies pregnancy.

They were given the devastating news that their son had already passed away. After a 40-hour labour, comfort was offered to the couple by a ‘cuddle cot’, a special cooled unit which allows beavered parents to spend time (up to 72 hours) with their babies, meaning they could stay with their first child before saying goodbye. “It was everything to us because it meant that we could actually spend some time with him”.

Determined to help others after their loss, they began fundraising, and quickly collected £5,000 for the 4Louis child loss charity, enough to fund three cuddle cots

Natalie says “It was a comfort knowing that something positive has come from it, and I feel as if it’s not just us going through this and we want to help other families. It makes it feel like it’s not for nothing. It’s a way of celebrating him, rather than everything being negative.”

The cots were donated to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, Leeds General Infirmary, and William Purves funeral directors, the North East company which conducted Vinnie’s funeral and which offers support to parents across the region who’ve lost babies. The memory boxes will go to the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, in Cramlington.

After the success of their fundraising efforts for 4Louis, We then turned our attention to Little Hearts Matter. LHM provides a network for those affected by heart conditions like the one Vinnie suffered, offering support both for those who live into adulthood with the conditions and families who lose a child to them.

Great North Run

Natalie and my friend Rachel ran the Great North Run for the charity, they raised £2500 much-needed after the charity was hit, like many others, by the challenges of Covid-19.

The couple said “Little Hearts Matter were a lifeline to us through everything. They were a massive support to us even in bereavement, they sent us a book written by other bereaved families of children and babies with heart conditions and sent us a card. The day after our baby’s diagnosis, LHM rang me. They explained things clearly, reassured me, listened to me and provided us with a network of other families.”

Pictured: Natalie, Suzie and Rachel at the Great North Run.

Taking part in the challenge raised funds to help them be there for families like they have been there for us.  We would have put ourselves through anything to ensure Vinnie got the care he needed.

Even though we are heartbroken we know Vinnie is at peace and won’t have suffered any pain. His legacy will make a difference to hundreds of families in the future as his parents honour him with their donations to a charity which helps those with the condition that led to his tragic death.

Our grief

Natalie told us  – I see Paddington everywhere as of the queen etc and unintentionally his headstone had Paddington on so it is a strange comfort at times. I still have an empty finished nursery with everything there for a baby. We are still trying for a baby after trying for Vinnie for 7 years and having recurring miscarriages.

It’s a really hard thing for any parent to lose a child and that pain never goes away a year and a half in. It is still very raw but I am learning to look at the good that my son has done and I am grateful always to the very small time we got at the RVI to cuddle him and spend time with him and have him christened by the hospital Chaplin. All of which are memories we will forever treasure. I will always be grateful for the love in my heart I have for my little boy and for being his mammy.

My course

I am currently doing my nursing Associates course through Northumbria Healthcare foundation Trust at Teesside University. It is a full time course but I am a Trust employee. I decided to do this course to become someone I am proud to be and that my son would be proud of. I was blown away by the team that supported us and wanted to do more myself professionally. My son has been the root of so much good and I will strive everyday to make him proud.

You are not alone

If I was to pass a message onto other families its that they are not alone. That’s why we did the charity work we did the cuddle cots were to us a s symbol we weren’t alone and little hearts matter were there for us when we hit rock bottom. No matter the rarity of the diagnosis there are people there you aren’t on your own and as a family all you can do is fight, pray and stand together. I would like to thank LHM for making us feel less isolated and able to plan steps moving forward.

No shame in asking for help

To all the other families going through this, there’s no shame in asking for help. Get the support you need whether it’s counselling, medication, community support, networking or advice. I have restarted counselling recently as things can come back.

Grief comes with highs and lows. You can be fine and even feel guilty when you are feeling OK and then you can hit rock bottom. Make sure you get the help you need when you need it no one can deal with diagnosis like these or loss alone as it will get too much. I wanted everyone to think I was very strong and in turn a lot of people say you’re so strong.

I’m not I am just trying my best every day as is my husband and we both have high and low days. It is important to keep an open dialogue and seek help when you need it.

Where you can get support

Click here for Little Hearts Matter bereavement support services.

Click here to visit The Good Grief Trust charity

Click here to visit SANDS pregnancy and baby loss charity

Click here to visit What’s your Grief charity