Courageous Faye Murray is planning to do her walking marathon with eight-year-old son Kai over 23 days in April – the precise number 23 chosen because daughter Shakira aged just 17 months died on 23 April.
And Faye plans to mark the end of the challenge with a particularly poignant moment – finding out the sex of her twins at a special “cannon” gender reveal celebration. She will also let off balloons in a field with family and friends to remember the little girl who isn’t with them. Faye said she would normally have chosen to do something a bit more adventurous, like a mountain climb – but being pregnant with twins restricted her choices. She said that instead she was “walking the footsteps” that her Shakira no longer could.
Here, Faye tells us Shakira’s story:
“Shakira had no signs of meningitis - she was a very happy, sassy little girl, but on that Thursday night she kept me and her dad Paul up all night long and I was shattered! So Paul's mum Mary offered to take Shakira to her caravan in Wales (where we also had our own family caravan). I was anxious at first if to let her go, but her dad said “come on, you’re shattered - she’s with her nan and will be fine”. So at 8pm that Friday, 22 April, we left Shakira chomping on some cucumber - she loved it!"
“Then around midnight I got a message to say Shakira had had a little vomit, although it was nothing to worry about. She had a shower and a bottle then went back to sleep. At 1.37am in the early hours of Saturday morning I got the worst call my life. I saw the call was from Shakira’s nan and immediately I knew, as a parent, that something was seriously wrong. All I got told was that Shakira had been taken ill and to get to the hospital in north Wales asap."
“From then on everything was a blur. I woke Shakira’s dad up by screaming and off we went. Fifteen minutes before we got to Wales from St. Helens I got a call again, this time from the hospital saying we were needed immediately. I kept calm for the sake of Shakira’s dad as he was driving – but I knew in my heart and my head what was happening. I didn’t know it was meningitis, but I knew that somehow her life was in danger."
“We pulled up at the hospital and there was security, police, doctors… every kind of medical staff you could think of waiting for us as we wouldn't know our way around the Welsh hospital. Sadly, as soon as we got there I had to give my permission for her life support to be switched off. I was a broken woman from that moment on. I lay on her, trying to keep her freezing cold legs warm. I held her dark purple hands. I had so many questions, but I couldn't ask - I just didn't want to leave her."
“Shortly after, the police said they needed to interview me and Paul – Shakira’s dad. This was the most upsetting part because my little 17-month-old button nose princess was laying alone, cold. I thought they could have given us a few hours, but they didn't. I rang my parents around half past five to pass on the news and tell them I wouldn’t allow them to take my little girl away from me. I went a bit crazy (apparently this was normal), a bit in denial asking them to do a brain transplant, to give her a new heart - all these went through my head. I even thought of stuffing her little body, I just couldn't part with my little girl."
“By around 8am they really needed to take her away from me, but still it didn't feel right taking my baby girl. I had taken medicine to calm me down, and away Shakira went to rest in the mortuary. I don't like that word. They promised by 10.30am I could go over, I just needed to speak to medical staff about what happens next etc. By this time, a lot of friend and family had driven down to Wales to support and comfort us. Then from then on it was all about getting Shakira’s body home.”