'I love this,’ cried my 10-year-old daughter London, twirling around in front of the mirror. ‘It’s a beautiful blue, like a mermaid!’ she gushed.
We were shopping for an outfit for the forthcoming ‘daddy-daughter’ dance at her school and blue was her favourite colour.
We bought the cute little outfit but life was pretty hectic so we decided to find shoes another day.
London did gymnastics four hours a day, four days a week. There was even talk of her competing at the Olympics one day.
Despite being tiny, she was very fit and the fastest runner at her school.
She was also a good student, getting As in every subject.
But what London was best at was making people happy.
And she especially loved older people.
‘Aren’t they cute, Mum?’ she’d say, if she saw an elderly couple in the shops.
My big-hearted girl adored animals too.
‘When I grow up, I want to work with old people or be a vet,’ she told me.
More than anything, she loved me, her dad Jerry, 45, her older sister, Eden, 12, and all her grandparents.
She was always giving us cuddles and kisses.
When London got a phone, she began making videos, often starring her beloved cats, Paris and Milan.
She even posted one on YouTube, telling people about herself.
She knew exactly what her second video was going to be about too.
For ages, she’d been desperate to go on a giant four-storey-high, 92m-long water slide at a local water park, where riders climb into a chute. Once in, the floor gives way beneath them, sending them plummeting down the slide in around seven seconds.
Riders had to be at least 122cm – and finally, London was tall enough.
When we arrived, London shot a little video
Then, Jerry took the girls up while I waited on the other side of the park.
Soon after, I heard a whistle blowing and
a distressed woman passed by, grabbing her kids.
‘Is there someone you want me to help you find?’
‘No, somebody’s drowned over there,’ she cried.
I ran to the water slide.
To my horror, sheets were being held up, shielding someone on the ground.
Jerry was looking on, devastated.
Pushing through, I saw London lying there with
an oxygen mask over her face, unconscious.
I heard screams of anguish reverberating around the park.
Then, I realised the screams were my own.
When paramedics arrived, they shocked my little girl back to life with a defibrillator before rushing her to hospital where she was put on life support.
London was always so fit and healthy.
How could this have happened? I thought.
Only that morning she’d been practising back flips in her room!
Jerry told me that after Eden had gone down the slide, London had given him a smile and two thumbs up before entering the capsule.
But our poor girl had suffered a cardiac arrest on the chute.
After fighting for her life for nine days, doctors told us she’d been without oxygen too long and the brain damage sustained was too great.
With her family tearfully gathered around her hospital bed, she suddenly opened her eyes, looked up, raised her arms as though reaching out for someone, smiled, and exhaled her last breath.
It was as if someone had come for her. We were stunned.
Grief-stricken, we buried our baby in her new blue dress. Her tiny feet were bare, like an angel’s.
It was March 3 – the day she should have been wearing her special outfit to her daddy-daughter dance.
The whole community came to her funeral, even strangers, with thousands of people lined up to pay their respects.
It still didn’t make any sense to us, but we soon learnt that London had an undiagnosed condition, Long QT syndrome, which can cause serious irregular heart rhythms. We’d had no idea.
Tragically, the excitement of being on the slide proved deadly – throwing her heart into an abnormal rhythm as she plunged down the tube.
Just three weeks later, I became a CPR instructor, and two months after that, Jerry and I started up the non-profit London Strong Foundation. We raise money and donate portable defibrillators to try and save others. We stress the importance of not hesitating to use one. Every minute decreases the survival rate by 10 per cent.
We also raise money for pet rescues, in tribute to London’s love of animals.
It’s been over a year since my angel got her wings.
When we went out and bought her blue dress that day, I never dreamt I’d be burying her in it.
When I’m really missing her, I switch on her phone and watch the cute little videos she made.
Even now, she is helping to heal my broken heart from heaven.