HEARTBROKEN: Shannon, Jules and Tash O’Connell with a photo of Harrison who died from SIDS at three months last year.
HEARTBROKEN: Shannon, Jules and Tash O’Connell with a photo of Harrison who died from SIDS at three months last year. Amber Hooker

In minutes, SIDS shattered Emerald family

LIFE was perfect for Tash and Shannon O'Connell when - after almost four years of trying - they welcomed their first son, Jules, into the world.

They felt as if they had "won the lotto" when their family of three grew to four one year later with the birth of Harrison.

But they soon found how quickly life could change.

At only three months old, Harrison died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome on November 21, 2014.

"The day itself was horrific, because we just put him down for a nap on our bed," Tash recalled.

"It was quite a hot day so we had the aircon on, the same as we had done a billion times, and I came out here (to the lounge room) to fold some washing."

Ten minutes later, Tash went to check on Harrison and was horrified to discover his lifeless body.

"Of course I screamed," she said.

"We (Tash and Shannon) both started CPR straight away, but it was just a blur, it really was."

Tash said being a nurse, she had taken all the preventative measures against SIDS, but her "happy, healthy baby boy" could not be saved.

"It can happen to anybody and it happens just so unexpected," she said.

Eight months later, the couple still grappled with grief and guilt, but they were trying to find a "new sense of normal" and do their part to ensure others did not suffer their heartache - or at least had access to support services if tragedy did strike.

The O'Connell's hope to help others by sharing their heartache over the loss of their son Harrison, who died of SIDS on November 21 last year.
The O'Connell's hope to help others by sharing their heartache over the loss of their son Harrison, who died of SIDS on November 21 last year.

Tash was busy setting up donation sites around the Central Highlands in the lead-up to national health charity SIDS and Kids' Red Nose Day, held today.

"Just knowing how it has ripped this family apart, I just feel for all those families out there that this happens to," Tash said.

The O'Connells said the support of friends, family, their workplaces and counsellors had helped them through the toughest time of their life, and hoped that funds might help others access bereavement support and counselling.

"Unless you have lost a child it's hard to understand what it's like afterwards," Shannon said.

"It's not the fact you have lost your child, it's how it affects the rest of your life.

"I haven't been able to see him grow... so not only is it the loss of losing him - it's the loss of losing everything about him."

"Shannon would talk all the time how much he was looking forward to taking his two boys out on the boat fishing, and just things like that," Tash added.

"So I get to have that with him (Jules), but there was always going to be a hole, because it's supposed to be two of them," Shannon said through tears.

Tash and Shannon said they did not know what the future held for them, or whether 22-month-old Jules would one day have another little brother or sister, but right now, they were grateful they have each other.

"Luckily you still have your little ones like this (Jules) who are still your ray of sunshine every day," Tash said.


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