Jasmine Shortland, 23, from Yeovil, Somerset, talks about the heart-shattering day her world got turned upside down…
As I picked up the phone, hearing his voice put a smile on my face. My boy Bryan-Andrew, 3, was bright and funny – he made everyone he met feel happy.
He was staying with my mum Debbie, 51, as he’d been diagnosed with mumps.
I’d just brought my premature youngest son Ivan, 4 months, from the hospital and I couldn’t risk him getting it, too.
‘How are you feeling, baby?’ I asked Bryan-Andrew. ‘My neck hurts and I miss you,’ he said. ‘You’ll be home before you know it,’ I told him. I missed him terribly, too. It was a wrench being away from him when he was poorly.
But Bryan seemed happy in himself and I knew Mum was taking good care of him and my middle son Austin, 1, which put my mind at ease. It meant I could focus on taking care of newborn Ivan.
‘Night night, Bry-bry, sweet dreams,’ I said down the phone. ‘Goodnight, Mummy, I love you,’ he replied, his voice sleepy. I hung up, wishing I could give him a goodnight kiss.
Soon after, I heard Ivan crying so I went to feed and change him before heading to bed with my partner, Josh, 20. Like every mum of a newborn, I was exhausted – so, soon, I was asleep.
The next thing I heard was loud hammering on the front door. I grabbed my phone to check the time. About 8am.
‘Who on earth is that?’ I mumbled to Josh, still half asleep. Then the knocking came again.
I dragged myself out of bed to the bedroom window, which looked down over the street.
My stepdad David, 48, was standing outside. ‘You need to come down, now,’ he shouted, his voice breaking.
I ran down, opened the door. ‘What is it?’ I asked. David looked absolutely desperate.
‘It’s Bryan. He’s gone,’ he replied, brokenly.
‘What do you mean he’s gone?’
‘He’s gone… He’s dead. Your mum went to check on him and he was gone!’ David wailed.
Hearing that, I fell to my knees and screamed. It couldn’t be real. How can my sweet, happy little boy be dead?
We raced over to Mum’s, where I found her shaking, and barely able to speak. ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,’ she wept.
She said that she’d heard Austin wake up for a drink, so she went in to give him one. But, when she checked on Bryan, he was completely, frighteningly still.
She ran to his bedside and desperately tried to wake him, but he wasn’t responding.
David tried to give him mouth-to-mouth, but his little jaw had locked.
An ambulance got there in minutes – but they couldn’t get his heart beating again.
The paramedics raced him to Yeovil hospital to pump him with adrenaline – but it was all too late. By the time I got to the hospital, a nurse was waiting there for me.
‘I’m so sorry, I’m afraid Bryan has been confirmed dead,’ she said. Minutes passed, and I just sat there in silence. The room was spinning.
‘I want to see him,’ I insisted.
She led me into a room where Bryan was lying on a bed. He looked so small and peaceful.
I curled up on the bed next to him and cuddled him, just like I always did every night before bed. I held his hand for hours.
‘Please wake up, Bry-bry. Please,’ I begged him. I took a photo of us holding hands. The last I’d ever take of my boy.
I ran through his last words to me, over and over… ‘Goodnight, Mummy, I love you.’
I knew they’d stay with me forever. My only comfort was that he died peacefully in his sleep and not in pain.
Eventually, it was time to leave him. Walking from that room broke my heart.
‘How can this have happened?’ I asked the doctor. ‘We don’t know,’ was the only reply he could give me.
I thought it might have been related to his mumps. But a postmortem showed no cause of death, so medics put it down to likely being sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). I thought that was something that only affected young babies but, in rare cases, it affects older children, too.
I went to the chapel of rest every day until Bryan’s funeral, just to be next to him.
There were times when I didn’t think I could go on, but I knew I had to – for Austin and Ivan.
They’re too young to understand what’s happened, but I’ll make sure they know about their special big brother.
At Bryan’s funeral, my stepdad and my brother Karl, 24, helped me carry his tiny coffin into the church, and Josh held my hand throughout the service.
But, on the way out, it all became too much and I collapsed with emotion. I just couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye.
We released balloons and spent the day telling stories of things Bryan had done and said. A beautiful day for a beautiful boy.
His bed’s still made up for him, his favourite book on his pillow. I like lying where he did, so I can feel closer to him for a while.
I’ve cried every single day since we lost him, and I’ll probably cry every day for the rest of my life.
I’m trying to move forward and be strong for my two other boys. But we’ll never, ever forget Bryan and how he brought joy to everyone who met him – nobody more so than his mummy.