New football club set up for bereaved fathers after Weston couple’s stillbirth

Keith La Grange and Peter Byrom from Sands United FC.

Keith La Grange and Peter Byrom from Sands United FC. - Credit: Archant

A Weston-super-Mare dad whose son was stillborn has set up a football team to help bereaved dads to support each other through their devastating loss.

Peter and Denise Byrom's son Thomas was stillborn at 27 weeks.

The couple were devastated at the loss of their first child and the experience has moved Peter to help other bereaved dads.

Peter has set up Sands United Football Club to give men the chance to support each other through their love of sport.

He said: "My son Thomas was stillborn on January 5, 2004.

"Unfortunately, like so many parents in my situation, they were unable to identify what caused Thomas to pass away.

"The idea is to offer an avenue of support for dads who have suffered a loss because guys often aren't as good at expressing their emotions and sharing their feelings.

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"Sands - the stillbirth and neonatal death charity - runs monthly group support meetings but some dads may not feel comfortable sitting in front of people and talking.

"The football club gives them the reassurance of being among a group of blokes who have been through a similar experience."

Keith Le Grange, from Weston, has also joined the club after he lost his daughter Aurora last year.

He said: "My wife had contracted parvovirus b19, commonly known as slapped cheek.

"We were told the likelihood of this affecting our unborn child was very low but she would be given weekly scans as a precaution.

"My wife had the first scan and there appeared to be no complications.

"However, a week later the virus had completely taken hold of our daughter.

"I got the call to say something had gone wrong and the fetal medicine unit at St Michael's Hospital was prepping a blood transfusion to stave off fetal hydrops to save Aurora.

"Forty minutes after the call, Aurora had passed away, five minutes before I got to the hospital.

"Four days later on March 24, 2018, we got to meet our beautiful daughter when she was delivered at exactly 24 weeks.

"We were able to spend some time with Aurora in a special bereavement suite in St Michael's Hospital."

The death of a baby is not a rare event and every 90 minutes in the UK - the length of a football match - a baby dies shortly before, during or soon after birth.

Sands, which supports anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby, wants to set up football team support networks all over the country.

The charity says playing team sports can help with the grieving process by giving people a focus, helping with mood and sleep problems and reducing feelings of isolation.

Sands United Bristol FC held its first training session in Clifton on Monday but the team is looking to recruit more players of all abilities and fitness levels from across North Somerset.

Peter said: "We're still looking for bereaved fathers, uncles, brothers or cousins to join the team. We're hoping to get enough dads involved so we can start playing matches in the autumn to potentially raise money for the charity and raise awareness of stillbirth and neonatal death."

For more details on the club, visit Sands United Bristol FC on Facebook or Twitter or email