Community sends outpouring of support for West Hampstead teachers grieving baby during coronavirus crisis

Hope Opoczynski-Booker. Picture: Matthew Booker

Hope Opoczynski-Booker. Picture: Matthew Booker - Credit: Archant

Two West Hampstead teachers have spoken of the grief at the loss of their newborn baby during the coronavirus crisis - and of the support they have received from the community.

Hope Opoczynski-Booker. Picture: Matthew Booker

Hope Opoczynski-Booker. Picture: Matthew Booker - Credit: Archant

Kim Opoczynski-Booker and Matthew Booker welcomed their first child, Hope Opoczynski-Booker, into the world at University College Hospital on March 13.

Hope had been diagnosed with heart problems before she was born and went into open heart surgery at Evelina London Children’s Hospital at just three days old. Although doctors initially thought the operation had been successful, after two weeks they found Hope had no blood flow to her left lung and she had to go through a second procedure.

Five hours after that surgery, her blood pressure dropped so dramatically that doctors were unable to revive her.

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has meant during the 28 days Hope was alive, Kim and Matthew rarely got to spend quality time with their baby.

Kim, speaking about Hope’s story as part of the Covid Chronicles on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, said: “The immense pain and hurt that came over us was like nothing we had ever felt.

“We were drowning and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t come up for air. Our lives had completely collapsed.”

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Matthew told this newspaper they have to wait for a post-mortem to establish a cause of death.

He said: “She was born poorly, but she was happy, when we were on the ward she was calm and happy.

“She loved to have behind her ear tickled. She was gorgeous, she was smiley, she showed that she wanted to live.”

In the days immediately after Hope’s death, friends and family wanted to show their support but also to comply with lockdown rules, such as helping with funeral costs or dropping off shopping.

The couple, who met while teaching at Hampstead Parochial School, set up a fundraiser to facilitate those requests but without the intention of canvassing for money.

However, well-wishers read their story and the fundraising total has now skyrocketed to more than £5,000.

“We don’t know [how to spend the money] at the moment but we are leaning towards a charity for parents who have lost babies,” Matthew said.