This is the first guest post for my blog by Joannah Thelwell. I thought it would be a good idea for other victims of SADS to use this blog as a channel to share insights into our grief and how we pick up the pieces, as best we can.

Joannah is the mother of 2 boys. She was widowed by Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) back in 2013. Here she shares her story of how fiancé and daddy to her boys, Nathan Jenkins, was taken away from her family at the age of just 41.

I feel like I have shared my story hundreds of times but still, it’s not enough. Even after 5 and a half years, the pain is still very real. Though within that time I have moved on to, what I like to call, my second life. Nathan is still a massive part of it all, especially my children’s lives.

Let me take you back to the 22nd of July 2013. For the family, it was just like any other day, my eldest son Gabriel, then 3, had just finished nursery for the summer holidays. We were at home, relaxing and anticipating what we could all be doing during the weeks ahead. My youngest child Roman was only 11 months old.

Nathan was my long-term partner and fiancé of 15 years. He’d only just arrived home after a long hard day at work. We both sat down for a celebratory drink whilst watching the pending arrival of Prince George on the TV. We then put the boys to bed, ordered a takeaway, ate, chatted and then went to bed. An absolutely normal day in the life. I’ll always remember that this was also the only night in the first 4 and half years of Roman’s life that he didn’t wake up at any point in the night. I thank God for this!

Joannah with
Gabriel and Roman

Nathan and I kissed each other goodnight. I was that tired, my eyes were shut when he kissed me, something I’ll always regret. This is just one of the little details that really matter now. I’m not exactly sure how long we were in bed asleep, but it must have been around 11pm when I was woken by a loud sigh. I turned to see Nathan’s eyes rolling, his body had stopped breathing. I panicked and ran downstairs to grab the phone. I was hysterical. I called 999. With help from the person on the phone, I’m not sure if it was a man or a woman, it was all too much of a blur. I begin to work on Nathan for around 12 minutes or so. I suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis and I was in a terrible flare that night, so my hands were not working very well. I still feel like my CPR attempts were not really helping. My eldest child Gabriel woke up during all this. Paramedics then arrived and started to work on Nathan further.

Nathan was pronounced dead on the 23rd July 2013 at the age of 41. All the while trying to reassure my eldest child that Daddy was feeling unwell and the doctors were helping him.

After the masses of people left, police, paramedics, family, there was just me. I sat staring at the television right through the night until Gabriel woke at 6am to ask where Daddy was. The nightmare began. The coroner could not find any stress to Nathan’s heart and so put it down to Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS), something I had not heard of. The boys now have tests, frequently. Thankfully they are both clear at the moment. There is a small issue with Roman, but the doctors are not concerned for now.

My life, well, it changed beyond comprehension. My boys have been through absolute hell. I was totally lost for the 9 months afterwards, I don’t really remember being in the room, so to speak!! One day, it was like a switch had been turned on in my head. I had to get my life back on track, not just for me, but more importantly for my boys, they needed their Mum. That year Roman celebrated his first birthday, my 40th and Gabriel’s 4th Birthday all within 6 weeks of losing Nathan. All the while, trying to keep it together.

As time went by, I just wanted to help others so I decided to complete my first fundraiser with my best friend. We managed to purchase and install a public defibrillator locally in our area. I have also raised further money to help research purposes of this devastating condition. I really like to help raise awareness of SADS and I’m still continuing to raise more money in support of C-R-Y and the British Heart Foundation. Currently, as part of Whitchurch Ladies RUFC, I’m in training for a mountain trek to the summit of Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons. I intend to raise additional funds for C-R-Y. If anyone would like to donate to the cause, more information can be found here.

My life has moved forward recently, and I am now with my new partner Rich who is such a lovely man. He understands a lot about what happened and lets me grieve. We also talk about Nathan openly, as he lives on in my boys. I understand I will never ever get over losing Nathan, I still love him dearly. I thought we would be together for forever. A life lesson learnt from my traumatic experience is the importance of living for today as tomorrow is never promised.

If you would like to pen a guest post, please contact me directly either via email, Facebook or Twitter (see links below). I will only publish posts about the issues and insights surrounding bereavement and grief.