Sanam Saleh and husband Abu with their son Idrees who died aged five days after being born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (Sanam Saleh/BHF/PA)
01 October 2022

Baby Idrees’s short life to be remembered by mother’s London Marathon fundraiser

01 October 2022

A mother of three will remember her much-loved baby son who died after being born with a heart defect when she runs her first London Marathon on Sunday.

Sanam Saleh, 35, from Blackburn, Lancashire, had three miscarriages before she became pregnant with Idrees in 2014.

Sanam and husband Abu were “really excited” but the 20-week scan revealed their baby was a little boy with a rare condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) where the left side of the heart does not develop properly and cannot pump blood efficiently.

“After the initial shock where it almost felt like grieving, Abu and I decided very early on that we would just embrace the journey and we also felt very lucky to be given the opportunity to be his parents.

“In our culture and religion we believe that our soul is created at around 16 weeks, long before the baby is born, so it’s tradition to name a child before it’s born,” said Mrs Saleh who is Muslim.

“We named our little boy Idrees – there is quite a deep religious significance as that’s the name of one of our prophets – but originally I chose it because I love the actor Idris Elba!”

On November 4 2014, at 37 weeks, Idrees was delivered by caesarean at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, weighing just over 2.5kg.

After a few hours, he was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit (Picu) at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, and tests were undertaken to see if Idrees would be able to cope with the surgery which might give him a chance of survival.

“But at four days old doctors told us that he had too many other internal complications and wouldn’t be able to have surgery, so the only option was palliative care,” Mrs Saleh said.

We wanted something positive to come out of his death and make it count and do something to be Idrees's legacy

“It wasn’t even a choice, it was the way it was and we’d prepared for this as much as anyone could in that awful situation.

“The day before he passed away we finally got to hold and cuddle Idrees which we did until he passed away the next day on November 8. He was technically five days old as he’d been born just before midnight.

“Because of our religion we buried him within 24 hours and we were surrounded by our family.”

The couple, who met at Lancaster University and went on to become chartered accountants, decided they wanted something positive to come from their son’s death.

“Very soon after Idrees passed Abu and I decided that we didn’t want his loss to define us in a negative way – we wanted something positive to come out of his death and make it count and do something to be Idrees’s legacy,” Mrs Saleh said.

“We also decided to be very vocal about his death because people find it very difficult to talk about or relate to baby loss and tend to just shut down and avoid the subject.”

They decided to support the British Heart Foundation (BHF) charity and Mr Saleh, now 37, raised more than £13,000 by running three London marathons and one in Manchester.

On Sunday it is his wife’s turn for the London Marathon, after she deferred her place from 2020 when the mass event was moved to a virtual run due to coronavirus.

“It’s exciting but also quite scary as I’m not a runner either. But I’m inspired by seeing all kinds of people running the marathon when I went to support Abu over the years and I know I can do it if I put my mind to it.

“For me it’s not about the fastest time but just about completing it,” she said.

“Luckily, I have an in-house marathon expert in Abu so it’s brilliant having him give me advice.”

The couple, who married in 2009 in Dubai where Mrs Saleh was born and raised before settling in Mr Saleh’s home town of Blackburn, have had two more children since Idrees’s death – Suleman, six, and Ameera, five.

“Both of them have been raised knowing their brother and every family picture they draw Idrees is always in it,” Mrs Saleh said.

“We all go to visit his grave often and we celebrate his birthday every year. We decided early, for the sake of self-preservation, that we weren’t going to focus on the day he died but to celebrate his birthday instead.

“And I’ll have Idrees’s name on my running top on marathon day.”

– To sponsor Mrs Saleh visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sanamsaleh2022

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