Sheffield couple who lost baby boy appear on heart-wrenching episode of BBC's The Repair Shop

A couple from Sheffield whose baby boy died have praised the team on BBC’s The Repair shop for transforming a precious memento.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 1:09 pm

Jenny Halse and husband James’ son Elijah was born premature and died aged just 37 days.

One of their most cherished reminders of his tragically short life is a seascape painting which was passed down by James’ grandparents and helps them feel close to Elijah and connected to their journey as a family through grief.

They took the artwork on to the show to get it lovingly restored and, in one of the most emotionally-charged episodes of the popular show, which aired on BBC One on Wednesday, October 13, their reaction to the stunning transformation was truly heart-wrenching.

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Sheffield couple James and Jenny Halse on The Repair Shop with Jay Blades and Lucia Scalisi, who restored their cherished oil painting which reminds them of their baby boy, Elijah (pic: BBC/Ricochet)

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James told the presenters how the painting reminded the couple, who have three other children, Jonah, Amos and Gabriel, of the Pembrokeshire coast which he said was a ‘very special place’ for the family as it was where they went on holiday the year Elijah died.

Struggling to hold back the tears, Jenny said: “He was 25 weeks and three days when he was born so he was tiny… I waited 16 days for a proper cuddle. It was amazing. He was perfect and miniature and then he got really, really sick.

"They did surgery on him and he was stabilising but his brain had been catastrophically damaged. He was never going to make it out of neo-natal care.

"His arrival and departure was a life-changing experience for us. I think you have before Elijah and you have after Elijah. And we’re alright. Not all of that is bad.

"We’ve been back to Pembrokeshire most years. It feels like a little extra place where we belong and that holds very special memories.”

James added: “I think it’s a good metaphor for grief in terms of it can be quite calm sometimes but sometimes quite rough and choppy and unpredictable. That’s what spoke to us about the painting.”

The painting needed a huge amount of work, with a large patch of mould to be cleared, but the couple were blown away by expert Lucia Scalisi’s restoration job.

Jenny described how they planned to hang it in the hallway at home so that every time they come and go ‘he’s there, part of who we are’.

Describing why the painting means so much to them, she said: “In the event that your baby dies you come home with a small box rather than a lifetime of experiences. So the painting sort of for us I think links the past with a new chapter for Elijah’s story.”

She told how a couple of years ago a team of rowers had crossed the Atlantic to fund research into premature birth and had named their crew in memory of Elijah, which she said ‘sealed the deal for it being Elijah’s painting’.

Jenny added: “Leaving the hospital and leaving him behind, you come away with empty arms, and to have something really special and meaningful that you can hold and you can own and that you do really love is really quite something. It’s really exceptional. It’s amazing. I love it.”

The episode, which aired during Baby Loss Awareness Week, is still available to view on BBC iPlayer.