Each year, hundreds of volunteers give generously of their time to ensure Red Nose Day is a success. Behind every one of those volunteers is a story and very often a deep connection to the idea of supporting families and saving little lives.
Felisha is one of Red Nose’s longest-serving Red Nose Day volunteers, clocking up almost two decades of involvement. She shares the story of how and why she brought the magic of Red Nose Day to her community in Denman NSW.
Even before I had kids, I knew about Red Nose Day. Whenever my husband Peter and I saw red noses for sale in a shopping centre we’d always stop and buy one. For some reason we always felt a connection to the cause, but we didn’t ever imagine it would impact us so personally.
I had a miscarriage with my first pregnancy. At the time I had very little support and it was really hard. I contacted SIDS & Kids, as Red Nose was known then, but I didn’t really become involved until later, after the birth of my second son, Jack.
When Jack was four months old I found him in his cot, face down and not breathing. I remember screaming to my husband for help. I had to try and resuscitate him.
Denman Hospital was a 2 minute drive away so we ran to the car, with our toddler, and took him straight there. A local gardener at the hospital saw us pull up and ran to us, grabbing Jack out of my arms and rushing him into the hospital. He must have been able to tell something very wrong when he saw our faces in the car. I didn’t know if Jack was going to be OK.
Jack did survive and after a week in John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, where he was transferred, he was diagnosed central sleep apnea. His brain was not sending the signals to make him breathe properly, and so he wasn’t getting enough oxygen.
Jack came home but spent the next five years on oxygen therapy while he was sleeping. We had to use a sleep monitor. My grandfather, Percy, was the president of Denman Rotary at the time and Rotary were able to donate the monitor to us. Initially SIDS & Kids Newcastle provided us with the probes for the monitor and from then on, we were in touch with them all the time.
I eventually got pregnant again but unfortunately had a late term miscarriage. This time, I went to a local SIDS & Kids support group, which made a massive difference compared to how things had been with my earlier loss.
I was still heartbroken at the lack of support I received at the hospital, but through SIDS & Kids I was able to take things to the hospital about miscarriage grief to raise awareness because at that time there was nothing. And sometimes we’d drop off little care boxes for other parents who were going through it.
My grandmother, Noela, had lost a little boy in the cot years before. She ended up coming to the group as well and she finally got a chance to grieve for her son. It’s amazing how much this helped her even all those years later. It was like she had people who understood her grief. It meant a lot to her to be able to help some of the younger mums in the group, too.
One of the things I’m most proud of that came out of my involvement in the group was the establishment of a memorial garden for families so they could have plaques to recognize their babies. I was really bothered by the fact that my babies didn’t have a grave and that there was nothing to even show they existed and I knew other families might feel this way too. We called it the Garden of Innocence.
Eventually the SIDS & Kids group couldn’t operate anymore in my local area, so I started putting more of an effort into Red Nose Day, especially when my eldest son started at the local school. All the years my boys were at primary school we’d celebrate Red Nose Day and have all the kids dress up in red. We’d have competitions and sell merchandise.
Denman NSW, where I live, is a small country town, and after I’d finished at the school for the day I’d go up to the main street and stay there until 5pm so the kids from the other local school could come and purchase merchandise. I’d walk around to the businesses as well who would all support me.
Although all three of my boys have finished primary school now, I still do my bit for Red Nose Day.
It’s been hard at times to continue as life has had its ups and downs, but I do it because I know what other families are going through in tough times.
Red Nose Day is just something that is part of me now and that will always be a part of me. Just knowing that I can do something for the community touches my soul. I want people to understand what others are going through. You never want or expect it to happen in your own family but if it does, we want people to know there is help and support out there.
Red Nose helped me stay focused when I needed them so I want to give something good and worthwhile back to the community, even if it only helps one person.
Red Nose Day relies on the generous involvement of many community members, volunteers and fundraisers. To find out more about how you can get involved visit www.rednoseday.org.au