KIT TARKA'S STORY
Kit was born healthy after an induction and emergency caesarean at 39 weeks following an uncomplicated pregnancy. He was taken away from us and into special care when he was just a few hours old due to low blood sugar. Kit was at risk of low blood sugar due to birth difficulties but we now know the guidelines for such babies were not followed - resulting in the unnecessary trauma of separation in his admission into the special care unit.
He was in special care for a few days and for most of his time there he was incredibly sleepy, not waking up for feeds and not responding to pain, even when his cannulas were inserted and when his little heels were pricked multiple times for blood tests. We were told that he was just a 'sleepy baby' and not to worry.
Kit was discharged from special care on his sixth day. We had two more days at hospital as he was beginning to show signs of jaundice but were eventually allowed home on his eighth day.
On his ninth day we were back in hospital as he wasn't waking up at all and really struggling to feed. We were admitted to the children's hospital where staff recognised immediately that something wasn't right but didn't know what; with a blood test showing infection markers, the doctors suspected a bacterial infection. This was despite the fact he'd been on antibiotics for three days in special care.
Over the next few days, Kit got a bit better and then much worse day by day until on his twelfth day he was rushed by ambulance to intensive care at the Evelina London Children's Hospital. There they did everything they could to save him but it was too late and he died early the next morning. Standing by helpless as a doctor performed CPR on our baby's tiny swollen and bleeding body is a memory which will haunt us forever. The Evelina doctors immediately suspected a viral infection, asking if we or any of Kit’s visitors had recently had cold sores. HSV1 was confirmed by blood tests the day after he died.
HSV1 or herpes simplex type 1, the virus Kit died from, is the same virus which causes cold sores in adults. When a newborn baby contracts it, they get very sick very quickly and if not given antivirals will almost always die. In 90% of cases, the virus is transmitted to a baby during birth from the Mum but we can only speculate on the most likely source of transmission to Kit. Blood tests showed no trace of HSV in Sarah, unlike an estimated 70% of the population, and James had not had a cold sore for years.
As the hospital did not consider or test for a viral infection - going against widely available guidance for babies with Kit's symptoms - he was not given any antiviral medication and so had no chance against such a devastating infection. In the end, HSV1 spread through his entire body and overwhelmed him.
Our beautiful baby boy died on the 29th September 2017.
by Kit's parents; Sarah & James
WHY WE ARE HERE
The Kit Tarka Foundation (KTF) was established in 2018 by Sarah and James de Malplaquet after their son Kit Tarka died at just 13 days old.
After discovering that Kit had died from disseminated neonatal herpes, Sarah set out to learn as much as she could about this devastating disease. She was astonished by the lack of awareness amongst the general public and, most disturbingly, by the huge gaps in knowledge of symptoms and best practice in the UK medical profession. It soon became clear that Kit’s death had been preventable and that the lack of knowledge around the transmission, recognition and treatment of the virus had led to his tragic and untimely death.
After contacting several charities to see if they could facilitate long overdue research into neonatal herpes but being told it was not within the scope of any of them, Sarah and James decided they needed to establish their own charity to help prevent more tragedies like Kit's. To that end, we launched KTF with a mission to prevent newborn baby deaths through research and education.
Our initial projects will focus on neonatal herpes but in the longer term, the aim is for KTF to fund projects into all causes of preventable neonatal death.
To prevent newborn baby deaths through research and education.
Babies who are born healthy stay healthy. Preventable neonatal deaths in the UK are eliminated.
WHO WE ARE
Sarah de Malplaquet
Chief Executive & Trustee
Sarah founded KTF with her partner James in January 2018 after their 13 day old son, Kit, died from neonatal herpes. She manages the day-to-day activities of the charity and looks after the finances.
Sarah is a charity finance professional. She started her finance career with an accountancy firm where she trained in general audit, moving over to their film team after qualification. After a career break volunteering and travelling, she entered the charity world as Financial Controller for BAFTA. Sarah then moved to The Charleston Trust, a house museum and arts venue in Sussex, where she was Head of Finance for 5 years before commencing the Chief Executive role on a paid basis.
James de Malplaquet
Chair of the Trustees
James founded KTF with Sarah. He is involved with all aspects of the charity with a focus on fundraising and events.
James is the Director of Studies at Loxdale English Centre & Swedish Folk High School, where he has been for over 3 years. He has been teaching for 15 years, working in English language schools and at Sussex University as a teacher and teacher trainer. He is a member of Sussex Director of Studies Association for which he has delivered teacher development workshops.
James has also been a professional musician. His band, The Miserable Rich, released five albums and toured Europe and North America over a 7 year period and made a comeback for the inaugural Kit Fest fundraising concert in 2018.
Susie is a founding trustee and heavily involved with the fundraising side of KTF, having over seven years of fundraising experience.
Susie currently looks after corporate sponsorship at Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, prior to which she spent six years as Head of Development at The Charleston Trust. She has experience of all aspects of fundraising including trust and foundation applications, donor circles, crowd funding and corporate sponsorship. Prior to joining Charleston, Susie spent 15 years working in marketing and PR in London.
Susie studied Modern Languages at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Brighton with her husband and family. She is passionate about the arts, books and the outdoors, as well as child development and well-being.
Emma is Kit's 'Godlessmother' and joined the Board in 2018 bringing her energy, enthusiasm and wise counsel to the organisation and helping us flourish. She has a background in marketing and business strategy and will be using this expertise to help shape the charity as it grows.
We achieved a huge amount in our first year and you can read all about it in our 2018 annual report which is available online here.
WHY AN ORANGE OTTER?
Kit was given the middle name Tarka for Sarah's love of swimming and James' love of otters. He was their little otter who never got to swim. They noticed from the clothes that Kit wore in his time with them that they also really liked the colour orange and it became his colour. Friends and family wore orange flowers in remembrance of Kit at his funeral.
We are very grateful to our good friend Mel Hudson from Stir Creative for designing our wonderful logo.