Thursday, June 16, 2016
A real mother
A little scrap of life was rescued from great danger by great love
A young mother has told how she risked her own life saving her premature baby from a fire which destroyed her family home.
Rachel Smeeth, from Accrington, Lancashire, ran into the flaming building after her partner's fourth failed attempt and managed to find her way to her son Matthew's cot.
Recalling the chain of events, the 23-year-old said: 'The neighbours were all screaming at me to stay outside, but all I could think about was my baby.
'I felt my way to the cot and he was lifeless - not crying - and I was sure he was dead. 'I scooped him up with a blanket over his face.
'By this time, the firemen were outside and I was able to follow the lights from their torches to make my way down the stairs.'
Rachel's partner Danny Casson, 27, who was disorientated by the smoke, jumped from a bedroom window.
The family was rushed to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. Rachel - also mother to Katie-Louise, three, and three-month-old Matthew - said: 'The doctors said it was a miracle that Matthew was alive.
'My throat was badly burned and we were all in shock. I lost my voice and the doctors have said I may have some permanent damage but that doesn’t matter at all.
'The firemen came to see us and told us we should be dead. They kept saying how brave I was to go back into the house for Matthew, but any mother would do exactly the same.'
Rachel and her partner Danny met two years ago and were thrilled when Rachel fell pregnant last year. Baby Matthew was born at the end of February 2016.
The firemen came to see us and told us we should be dead. They kept saying how brave I was to go back into the house for Matthew
Recalling her son's birth, Rachel said: 'I had suffered five miscarriages after my first baby, and so when Matthew was born it felt like a miracle. He was very precious.'
Born four weeks early, on February 24 this year, little Matthew weighed just 4lbs 7ozs.
He was allowed home a week later - with exhausted parents Rachel and Danny taking turns to do two hourly feeds.
Rachel says: 'Matthew didn’t settle very well with him being premature, so I would try to get him to sleep before we had our evening meal. 'But as a result, we were eating later and later in the evening.'
One evening in March, after settling Matthew, she switched on a pan to cook supper - but as she and Danny waited in the living room, they both drifted off to sleep. She says: 'I didn’t even realise I was so tired but looking back, I was exhausted and I should never have switched on a pan.'
When Danny awoke, 45 minutes later, the house was filled with black smoke. He awoke Rachel who, struggling to breathe, was disorientated and choking.
She says: 'I couldn’t even remember where the door was; it was as if I was in a trance. I was gulping in smoke and I could feel myself going faint and dizzy.
'Danny was trying to tell me that the house was on fire and that we had to get the kids out - and suddenly I snapped to my senses.'
Danny rescued three-year-old Katie first and handed her out to neighbours who had gathered around the house. He ran back into the flames to rescue three week old Matthew - but was forced back by the smoke and heat.
Rachel says: 'Danny went back again and again but the house was thick with smoke and he just couldn’t see a thing. He couldn’t even find his way upstairs.
'After his fourth attempt failed, I realised that Matthew was going to die and I knew I had to act. 'I ran back into the house, following the sounds of Danny’s voice to find my way to Matthew’s room.'
Miraculously the couple and their children have all made a good recovery. However, the fire destroyed their home and they have had to relocate.
Reflecting on their house fire ordeal, Rachel said: 'We have lost everything - even our clothes from that night are in ruins.
'But despite everything, we feel so lucky, just to be alive. 'I could not have faced life without my precious baby - he was a miracle even before this happened. Now, we treasure him all the more.'