Sands is the leading stillbirth and neonatal death charity in the UK. Sands exists to reduce the number of babies dying and to ensure that anyone affected by the death of a baby receives the best possible care and support for as long as they need it.
Karen Hancox is the Chair of Oxfordshire Sands and Mother to Kayleigh (Stillborn on 4.11.07), Charleigh Grace and Konnor. Alongside being a representative for Sands for 13 years, she is a primary school teacher.
Sands is the leading stillbirth and neonatal death charity in the UK. Please can you tell us more about the work that Sands do?
Sands exists to support anyone affected by the death of a baby, to improve the bereavement care received by parents and families, and to promote research to reduce the number of babies dying.
Everything we do from the services we run, the public health messages we promote and the way that we raise money, is focused around these three aims.
Sadly, the death of a baby is not rare. Every day in the UK around 14 babies die before, during or soon after birth. That means that nearly every two hours, a family is faced with the devastation of the death of their baby. This is unacceptable.
After decades of stagnation, the UK’s stillbirth rate is now falling, due to a national drive to reduce stillbirths, prompted by persistent calls from Sands and others. 1 in 3 of all deaths of children under 18 are newborns.
Sands provides bereavement support services
both nationally through its Freephone helpline,
mobile app, online community and resources, and locally through a UK-wide network of around 100 regional support groups. They work in partnership with health care professionals, trusts and health boards and offer a range of training programmes and bereavement care resources to ensure that every bereaved parent and family receives the best possible care wherever they are in the UK. Additionally, they promote and fund research to better understand the causes of baby deaths and save babies’ lives. The charity also raises awareness of baby loss and works with governments, key influencers- such as Malin Andersson, and other stakeholders, to make reducing the number of babies dying a priority nationally and locally.
Over the past 40 years, Sands has grown into a national charity with a powerful vision, to create a world where fewer babies die, shared by dedicated volunteers, fundraisers, members, donors, healthcare professionals, partners, staff and bereaved parents and families.
What inspired you to do the philanthropic work that you do at Sands and how did you start out?
I became aware of Sands when my first daughter, Kayleigh, was tragically stillborn at full term. After a textbook pregnancy, I went into hospital in labour, five days before my due date, and upon arrival at the hospital, my baby had no heartbeat.
I had been for a scan a week previously, where everything was fine. Two days before going into labour, I had a midwife appointment where all was perfect. The post mortem found no cause of death. Kayleigh was a 7lb 11oz good sized, perfect baby. I was thrown into a dark world, feeling nothing but devastation and isolation, having to face planning my precious baby’s funeral and to live a life where I was no longer who I used to be, I wasn’t who I was meant to be and I was just so lost- I did not know who I was.
Sands had ensured that there was a bereavement suite away from the main labour ward, which helped enormously with the trauma. They offered support and were a huge lifeline to me at a time where I was struggling to find my way.
The year after Kayleigh died, I raised £13,000. Half of this money went to the local hospital to purchase an antenatal heartbeat monitor, to ensure the best possible care.
The other half was used to design and erect a public memorial at the local crematorium, for any bereaved parents to have a focal point for their loss and grief. Since then, for the past 13 or so years, I have been heavily involved with Sands as a volunteer. Juggling the role with family, teaching and a busy life. For the past several years, since I have been Chair- there have been only three of us volunteers keeping Oxfordshire Sands going- and this has been challenging at times. However, for me, it is my way of doing something for Kayleigh, so her life makes a difference to others.
I was overwhelmed to recently receive an award for Outstanding Volunteering from Sands in recent years, and have been proud to have a part in organising awareness and remembrance services, supporting others, fundraising, raising the profile of Sands in the media, liaising with the hospitals and keeping our local parents informed and connected.
Special memories for me will always be attending a reception at 10 Downing Street and being invited to the Houses of Parliament for Baby Loss Awareness Week.
How can our readers support Sands?
There are lots of ways for you to get involved and support us - from volunteering at an event, to campaigning for better services. Visit the Sands website for a whole host of ways that you can become involved: sands.org.uk
We even have a Sands United Football Club which parents can get involved with, to specifically support bereaved dads. If you have any questions or ideas about Sands United please email firstname.lastname@example.org