I’m sure that some of you will be wondering about who I am, my background and why I have been nominated for a Significant Achievement award in the Wonderful Worcestershire 2018 awards. The truth is, I have no idea myself. Some say I am inspiring, some say I am brave, and some say I am courageous to carry on going through life after all I’ve been through, but I don’t see it that way. Life is for living and I know there are many out there who have been through far worse than me, and who are far more worthy of a Significant Achievement award than me. But for those of you who are interested and wonder if I deserve for you to cast your vote for me in the awards, here goes……
I was born in Worcester in 1973, an only child to my doting and wonderful parents Frank and Linda. I had an idyllic childhood which was shattered when I started infant school and was subjected to horrific bullying which I had to endure daily, and that I have continued to endure throughout adulthood. I didn’t have many if any friends as a child until I met my friend Helen at junior school, but she moved away with her family 2 years later to Derby and I lost touch with her, that is, until Facebook was invented and I was able to make contact with her again.
I went to college, studied hard and in 1995 I landed a job at PVA Management Ltd, a company that represented some of the most famous TV and radio personalities in the UK. I spent seven years working with Chris Tarrant, the host of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, and I got to see the series grow from a format on A4 paper called “Cash Mountain” to having huge global success and huge success in the UK that it would regularly beat “Eastenders” in the TV ratings. I had a wonderful time working with Chris over the years, even when he was a naughty boy (which was often!) and oh boy the stories I could tell! But those are for another time.
After seven years I worked in PR and marketing at the University of Worcester where I helped to promote the bid for Worcester to become a University status city. Then I undertook some PR and marketing contracts including at a leading marketing agency in Worcester and with several government departments including Worcestershire County Council and DEFRA. I travelled extensively and I moved up the career ladder very quickly. Then in 2009 my ex-husband founded a software development company and I joined it when it was run from our then home office with just the two of us. I grew it to a team of over 25 and with offices in the centre of Worcester with a network of resellers and distributors for our products in over 50 countries worldwide.
It is said that when one area of your life goes spectacularly well, another area will often go badly to compensate. This was certainly true in my case. All my life I wanted to be a mother, and I would dream of holding my son or daughter in my arms, reading them bedtime stories, going to the park with them and teaching them everything I have learnt in life and more. I even wanted more than one child – two or three would be nice. So when I hit my late 20’s my ex-husband and I started trying for a baby. I thought I would get pregnant easily and have a son or daughter in my arms in no time. Four miscarriages later, with very long gaps in between each miscarriage, I was no closer to being the mother I so desperately wanted to be.
Tests were done with both me and my ex-husband and while nothing was found to explain the miscarriages with me, a problem was identified with my ex-husband. We were told that the only way we would be able to have a baby together was to have ICSI treatment, and we were referred to the Priory Hospital in Birmingham for 2 rounds of treatment on the NHS. In the meantime while we waited for our treatment I had another 2 miscarriages, making the total 6.
My ex-husband and I separated literally 10 days before we were due to start the ICSI treatment, and divorced a few months later. Not only was my chance of being a mother in tatters, but I had to start all over again career wise too having put everything into his business. In the meantime an old friend got in touch and we met up after many years. We ended up getting together and I went back to interim work with the Royal Lifesaving Society in marketing and PR, which was what I knew I was good at.
I was the Chairman of the Worcester Music Festival from 2007 to 2009. I founded the Worcestershire Literary Festival in 2011 which had over 100 events across the whole of the county of Worcestershire. I campaigned extensively to get the road layout changed at Whittington Roundabout because it was highly dangerous and a serious accident waiting to happen. I founded the Worcester Traffic Forum in response to the growing traffic problems in Worcester and Worcestershire. A Facebook campaign I started to save a seal named Keith when it wandered into the River Severn by mistake went viral and was in the press all over the world, not just in the UK. It seemed I was successful in everything I did, and I lived for my work and helping others. I loved making a positive difference.
I remarried in April 2013, and the following month I had a shock when I discovered that I was pregnant.
I got past the 6 week mark, then 8 weeks, then 10, then the magic 12 week mark…and beyond. But at my 20 week scan, where I found out I was having a boy, my unborn son was diagnosed as having a severe cleft lip and palate. From that moment on my whole world was my son and given the amount of operations and care I knew he would need I decided I would give up my career entirely and be a full time Mum for as long as it took. By this time I was working for BT and I started the process of winding down my career completely to prepare for the arrival of my unborn son and being a full-time Mum.
Having done this, on November 27 2013 when I was 33 weeks pregnant, I heard seven words that will live with me for as long as I live.
“I’m so sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.”
I was told that my unborn son had died inside me and that he would be born sleeping. Words cannot describe how I felt at that moment. I was SO close to finally being a mother, but it was going to be cruelly taken away from me and I would have to give birth to my son knowing he would never take a breath in this life. My heart was completely broken.
On November 29 2013 at 4.47pm weighing 4lb 10oz, Francesco “Frankie” Enrico Ventura was born.
I was fortunate along with my husband and parents to be able to spend some time with him in the Fay Turner suite at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital. We made memories, I dressed him, held him, had him baptised by Rev’d David Southall, the Chaplain at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, took photos of him and got his hand and footprints done. I knew those precious few hours would have to be enough to last me a lifetime and the hardest thing I have ever had to do was to leave my much loved and much wanted son in the care of the midwives at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital and instead of taking Frankie home, I had to arrange his funeral instead.
I was yet again in a position of having to start again and pick up my life from scratch in all ways, but this time I had no idea how I was going to go on. Some days I didn’t want to go on, I kept wondering what I had done to cause Frankie to pass away inside me, it must have been something I’d done I thought and I blamed myself. But then we were told that Frankie had two identical copies of Chromosome 15, and as such it wasn’t just the severe cleft lip and palate that he had. He would never have walked, and he would have been severely mentally and physically disabled. He never stood a chance, and if he had made it into this world he would have been subject to a lifetime of pain and suffering, his lifespan would be reduced, and he would have needed 24 hour round the clock care while he was in this world.
Even with this news I struggled to come to terms with losing Frankie. I threw everything into starting a charity in his memory, and “Frankie’s Legacy” was born. We and fundraised for the Fay Turner suite and delivery suite rooms at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital to equip them with more comfortable chairs and facilities. My husband and I raised over £10,000 for the hospital, and we set up support groups – both online and offline – to help others who had been affected by early miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Called “Everlasting Footprints”, the support groups were designed to provide a safe space for those who have been affected by stillbirth, early pregnancy loss and neonatal death and to help them feel supported and not alone.
But it didn’t end there for us.
We lost my father in law in horrific circumstances when the Worcestershire Royal Hospital completely missed the fact he was riddled with cancer. He was 77.
We lost my cousin Brenda from complications arising from Type 2 diabetes. She was 78.
Cruelly, we lost my cousin Tony who I was very close to when he had a heart attack out of the blue. He was only 57 and left behind a wife, son and his parents, my Aunty and Uncle, who are in their 80’s. I will never forget the sight of my Uncle screaming when my cousins coffin was lowered into the ground at Astwood cemetery and crying out, “It should be me, why isn’t it me.” As I know to my detriment, no parent should ever have to bury their child. Suddenly at that moment my Uncle and I had much in common, because it doesn’t matter if your child was born sleeping or was an advanced age, the pain and the grief is still the same.
Then I lost my beloved German Shepherd Curley to old age, and Curley had been with me through the grief of losing Frankie and through everything else that happened to me. She was part of my family and losing her was just as upsetting and as acute and painful as losing my other family members. She was my baby after Frankie.
Even more cruelly my beloved Aunty Maria, my Dad’s sister, was diagnosed with dementia and between my parents and me we looked after her as best we could and it was heartbreaking to lose her bit by bit, day by day, and see her slip away before my very eyes. It was like she had died before she had died, such was the pain of seeing her lose her memories and everything she was. She succumbed to dementia on All Saints Day – Sunday 1 November 2015 – and my heart was broken all over again.
As all these bereavements happened to me, I suffered a further four early miscarriages. A referral to a specialist recurrent miscarriage unit at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital led me to being diagnosed with a condition called hyper fertility. My journey to being a mother was finally over. I had a reason for the miscarriages, an underlying condition that I was born with, and there was no treatment and nothing I could do about it. Some women with the condition can occasionally go on to have a healthy baby, and although I was lucky enough to get pregnant and for my pregnancy to go as far as it did it was sheer bad luck that Frankie had the chromosome 15 dupulication that meant he would be severely mentally and physically disabled. Life is just so cruel at times.
During this time I tried to keep going work wise, I had some howlers of jobs with awful bullying bosses and was betrayed by some now ex-friends. I founded my own PR agency and founded the UK Cyber Security Association, the UK’s first dedicated trade association for cyber security, which my husband now looks after. But I couldn’t keep everything going and I didn’t want to remain in the grip of my grief for Frankie forever. I made him a promise that I would survive. That I would keep going, no matter how hard, and no matter how hopeless things seemed. I intended to make good to him on that promise, and I realised I didn’t have to work myself into the ground to raise funds in his memory and work all the hours that God sent doing it.
Instead I changed direction and “Frankie’s Legacy” became a blog and awareness raising tool, and I work on carefully crafted awareness campaigns to help others who have been through not just early pregnancy loss, stillbirth and neonatal death but through ALL kinds of bereavement, as I have experienced all kinds of bereavement since losing Frankie. My latest awareness raising campaign is “Communication Matters”, which focuses on educating healthcare professionals to deliver life changing and often bad news in a sensitive and delicate way.
Following on from launching “Frankie’s Legacy” as a blog, I then launched my blog “Cyber Geek Girl” and joined the best company I have ever worked for – Corinium Global Intelligence. I am a Content Marketing and Editorial Director and part of their Corinium Digital arm, and I am constantly writing articles, white papers, blogs, reports and other types of content that is aimed for the emerging C-suite roles in data, analytics, AI and data security. I hope to move into supporting the emerging C-suite roles of Chief Cyber Security Officer/Chief Security Officer in the not too distant future, as I have considerable experience in cyber security and data security.
My role at Corinium Global Intelligence has restored my faith in the world, in employers and in people. I never thought I would find such a great company to work for, but I have, and I will always be eternally grateful that I found Corinium, and that they found me. Just as in life we have a relationship soulmate, I believe that we also have a soulmate in our work lives, and I am lucky enough to have found it at Corinium.
My mission in life now is to help as many people as possible who have been through extreme loss, grief and trauma – just as I have. I may not have my son, or the other close members of my family who I have lost, but I want to reach out to as many people as possible in not only my son’s name and memory but in their names and memories to let others know that yes things seem futile, and it feels like you will never recover, but life does go on and you will learn how to navigate through it despite the grief and loss. You will never be the same, you are forever changed. I am forever changed because of the grief and loss I have been through, and because I have had to accept the cruel twist of fate that life has dealt me in never being a mother, but I choose not to let any of what has happened to me define me. I am a survivor, not a victim.
I am currently studying my Reiki 1 and 2 qualifications, and to be a Reiki Master, so I can help others heal through Reiki. I am considering becoming a bereavement counsellor. I am going back to business networking events which I love and booking public speaking engagements. I have an idea for another festival in Worcestershire and I am going to do it. I practice mindfulness and spirituality. I may not have been able to do what we are put on this earth to do which is to have children and ensure the next generation goes on, but my life goes on enriched in other ways. I am luckier than many in life, and I don’t intend to sit and wallow. Instead, I help others who have been through what I have been through and try to help them understand that they are not alone. They are never alone.
So, this is me, and this is my story. I am nothing special and there are far more worthy nominees in the Wonderful Worcestershire Awards. I am just trying to make my way in the world, navigating my way through the worst kind of grief that anyone should ever experience, and not let it change who I am or my view of the world. I could have quite easily gone into my shell or taken a load of tablets in the hope I would never wake up, but that is the cowards way out, and my son would not want me to be a coward. He would want me to go on, to live my life, to have fun and to enjoy what bit of time I have left on this earth – whether it is long or short. My chance to be with him again will come. I don’t know when – no-one knows when they will die – but it will come.
I’m sorry that this blog entry is so long, but if you would like to contact me, or if you have been through what I have and need someone to talk to, I’m here for you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and if I can help you to the best of my ability, I will.
Thank you for reading this far, and if you would like to vote for me in the Wonderful Worcestershire Awards, you can do so by following this link – http://wonderfulworcestershirewomen.co.uk/contact/.
With much love,
Lisa Ventura xx