Heartbroken mother to cycle around lough

A DEVASTATED mother whose daughter died at birth is set to cycle a gruelling 130km in a single day to raise money for the charity which helped her through her ordeal.

Twenty-eight-year-old Joanne McClelland, from Old Court Manor, was left heartbroken after she lost her daughter Grace three and a half years ago.

“I had been pregnant for 38 weeks and six days,” said Joanne.

“Everything was fine during the whole pregnancy. All the check ups with the doctors throughout that time were great, and we were expecting a healthy baby girl.

“However, a week before I actually gave birth, I started to feel really sick. I was sick right up until I went to the hospital.

“It was only when I arrived at Craigavon Hospital to go into labour that I found out something was wrong. The doctor told me there was no heartbeat coming from the baby. There was clotting in my placenta, which is what caused Grace’s death.

“It was absolutely devastating, it’s something a person can never get over.”

Joanne was just 25-years-old at the time of the tragedy, on December 2, 2007.

Several weeks after baby Grace’s death, Joanne visited ‘Sands’, the Still Birth and Neo-natal Death charity.

“They had a service in Portadown in memory of all the babies who died in similar circumstances to mine.

“There, I met others who had the same experience I had. That’s what got me involved in the charity.”

She continued: “Being in contact with people who had gone through the same trauma I had made me realise that I was not on my own.

“You also realise there’s hope there. You see others who have had miscarriages and still births who have went on to have children.

“Indeed, I gave birth to a health baby boy one year later - my son Reuben.”

Now, along with her sister Ciara, she’s taking part in ‘Lap the Lough’ - an annual cycle around Lough Neagh - to raise funds for the charity which helped her in her hour of need. “We’re expecting it to take around seven or eight hours,” said Joanne.

“It’s quite a challenge, but we’re up for it. We hope to raise around £1,000. Half will go to the local branch of Sands, and the rest will go to the UK-wide organisation to help with research.”

She added: “Pre-natal death is more common than many people acknowledge. Four babies die every week in Northern Ireland, so I’m keen to highlight the issue and do what I can for the charity.”

Joanne and Ciara will begin their journey around Lough Neagh on Sunday, August 28. They will set off at Maghery Country Park and make their way around the Lough via Toome, Antrim and Crumlin, before finishing at Oxford Island.

The sisters will also be holding a fundraising night in the Stables on Saturday, September 24. Admission is £5.

To donate, visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/angelofgrace.