The heartbroken husband of a mum of tiny triplets who died suddenly at home has paid an emotional tribute to his wife.
Rachel Park 39, and her husband Steven had told of their excitement after their triplets Poppie, Mollie and Evelyn were allowed home for the first time before Christmas.
But it emerged yesterday that Rachel died suddenly at home in Bransty, Whitehaven, on Tuesday.
Paying tribute to his wife, Steven said: “She idolised those little girls, they were her world.”
He was too upset to say any more.
The couple’s tiny triplets were born prematurely ten months earlier and fought for their lives in hospital.
The proud mum had spoken just a week before her death and told of her excitement at getting to spend time with her young family at the family home over Christmas.
She told how the house was strewn with toys for her children.
The 39-year-old told the News and Star: “They’ve had quite a tough journey but they’re growing now and doing well. We’re looking forward to Christmas – there are toys everywhere!”
Following news of Rachel’s death, devastated friends launched an appeal to help raise money for her husband Steven to look after his young family.
Julie Hodgson, of Dearham, wrote on Facebook: “We have set up a PayPal account to try and raise money and give her beautiful family the support they need now, and in the coming months.
“We understand that it is an expensive time of year for everybody, but every little helps in this situation, please feel free to donate via PayPal to [email protected]”
A seperate Go Fund Me appeal has also raised about £4,000 just hours after being opened.
Police have described Rachel’s death as “unexplained but not suspicious”.
The combined birthweight of the triplets was just 5lb 2oz – three tiny sisters weighing together as much as one small newborn alone.
Born 14 weeks early, triplets Poppie, Mollie and Evelyn fought for their lives in hospital for the first two months.
Their terrified parents told the Daily Mirror before Christmas how they never heard the doctors say: ‘When your girls come home’.
Day after day, it was always ‘if’.
Rachel, 39, said one week before Christmas: “I remember the consultant telling us: ‘All we have is time. It is up to them, and how much of a fighter they are’.”
Friend Lucy Dawson told BBC Cumbria after her death: “Rachel had the girls back in March this year and I fell pregnant with triplets just after.
“I got in touch with Rachel online and she supported me through every step because she knew what I was going through. I wouldn’t be where I am without her support.
“She was a good friend to me and a good support to other ladies who had triplets in the area and across the UK as well.”
For Steven and Rachel, their triplets were much longed for first babies, conceived on the fourth cycle of IVF .
They imagined this first Christmas over and over as the fun family occasion they had always dreamt of.
But when their girls arrived unexpectedly early on March 11 at just 26 weeks and five days it seemed highly unlikely all three, if any, would make it.
Admin manager Rachel and Steven, a chef, married in 2009 and tried for six years to start a family.
They had three failed rounds of IVF on the NHS before a fourth done privately proved successful last summer.
“At six weeks I found out I was pregnant at last,” said Rachel. “At first they only found two heartbeats, so we were over the moon to be expecting twins.”
Two weeks later came the shock news the ‘twins’ were non-identical triplets. “We felt kind of numb,” Rachel admitted.
“It was disbelief, shock,” adds Steven. The triplets appeared healthy at every scan and the couple were excited at the thought of their ready made family.
“We could see them all on the scans, hear all three heartbeats,” says Rachel.
“Last Christmas we began buying things for them – a pram for three, three Moses baskets.”
The triplets were due on June 12, but at 22 weeks Type 1 diabetes sufferer Rachel began to show signs of high blood pressure caused by potentially fatal pre-eclampsia. Her kidneys and liver were failing.
By 24 weeks the mum-to-be of Whitehaven, Cumbria, was sent to Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle nearly 100 miles away for specialist care where she suffered a serious bleed.
“They stopped it but after two days I had another,” she recalls. “
They found a problem with blood flow from the placenta too. They told me my babies would be safer out than in.”
Rachel was taken for an emergency caesarean . “It was a blur,” she said. “I just wanted them out and to know they were OK.”
Due to heavy sedation and an infection, the new mum – who needed three transfusions – didn’t see her daughters for three days.
It is Steven who recalls their birth.
“There were so many people in that room, about 26,” he says.
“They lifted the babies up one by one and a team was allocated to each one. They let me touch Poppie. I kissed her on the head.
“But it was so frantic. I heard another cry, that was number two, Mollie. It was very emotional, the reality sunk in as they were rushed to the special baby unit.”
Poppie, Hollie and Evelyn weighed 1lb 9oz, 1lb 7oz and 1lb 6oz respectively and were put in incubators and on ventilators as their lungs were so tiny.
Speaking before Christmas, Rachel recalled her first sight of them.
“They wheeled me down. I met Evelyn first. I put my hand in to hold hers. It was so hard not to be able to give them cuddles, to have the glass between you. I read them nursery stories.”
An online fundraising page has now been set up to help her baby girls.