Meet Our Customers: Sarah de Malplaquet from the Kit Tarka Foundation
Meet Sarah de Malplaquet, Chief Executive and Founder of the Kit Tarka Foundation.
The Kit Tarka Foundation was set up by Sarah and her husband, James, to raise awareness of neonatal herpes (HSV1), after their son Kit sadly passed away after contracting the virus. The mission of the foundation is to ‘prevent newborn baby deaths through research and education.’
We had the pleasure of speaking to Sarah, who is a regular Aspinline customer. She told us more about neonatal herpes, fundraising events and how they use our products.
Can you tell us about the Kit Tarka Foundation and how you got started?
“Our son Kit died when he was just 13 days old from neonatal herpes which he had contracted in hospital from an unknown source. Herpes was not diagnosed until the day after he died so Kit never received the antivirals which could have saved his life. After Kit died it became obvious that there was a lack of awareness of neonatal herpes amongst the general public and, most disturbingly, a huge gap in knowledge of symptoms and best practice in the UK medical profession. When we realised that no other UK charity initiates and funds research into the neonatal (newborn) babies and that the latest published study into neonatal herpes was over 25 years old, we decided the only thing to do was to start our own charity to help prevent more tragedies like Kit’s.
In our first year, we far exceeded our initial expectations and managed to raise over £50,000 to fund the first neonatal herpes surveillance project in over 25 years and started working towards a training programme.”
For people who may not be familiar, can you explain more about HSV1 or herpes simplex type 1? How is it contracted and is it treatable?
“HSV 1 or Herpes Simplex Type 1 is often known as the cold sore virus as this is how it often presents. HSV2 or Herpes Simplex Type 2 can also cause cold sores or, more commonly, genital herpes. 70% of the UK adult population have either HSV1 or HSV2 or both and many will be completely oblivious as they will have no symptoms at all. HSV can be transmitted to babies before, during or after the birth from the mother or another individual in close contact with the baby. After birth, it can be transmitted via the saliva of a person who is ‘shedding’ the virus - which could be via an active cold sore but the virus can also be shed without any cold sores present. The transmission could be from a kiss which is where we see the ‘Kiss of Death’ headlines or it could be someone touching their mouth and then the baby for example. If a baby contracts neonatal HSV they will get very sick very quickly. They need to be treated immediately with antiviral medication but even with the treatment they may die or suffer from long term health problems such as cerebral palsy.”
What is your day-to-day life like running the foundation?
“At the moment I am on maternity leave from my day job with Kit’s baby brother Red, so life is very hectic. Red isn’t great at sleeping during the day so I catch up on most of my work after he is in bed at night. I am a qualified accountant so am responsible for keeping all the finances up to date as well as running the charity on a day to day basis, updating the website, organising events etc. I am supported very closely by my husband James and our other trustees who are brilliant. Everyone has different skills and expertise to bring to the organisation. At present we are entirely volunteer-led.”
How does the work that you do help other parents/families in similar situations?
“We are hopeful our work is already saving babies’ lives as parents and visitors to newborn babies become more aware of the dangers of the herpes virus and medical professionals are more alert to recognising the symptoms of neonatal herpes as well as being reminded that they should not be working with newborn babies if they have an active cold sore. Our future work will target medical professionals as well as the general public.”
Do you have any fundraising events coming up that people can get involved with?
"Yes! We are already starting to organise out 3rd sponsored Walk for Kit which is on Sunday 5th July 2020 in East Sussex. It is always an amazing day and the feedback we get from the walkers has been 100% brilliant! We have raised over £29,000 to date from the walks and every penny goes to helping save babies’ lives. Entry is free but we ask each walker to aim to raise £100 sponsorship. It is a family-friendly event with a marathon, ½ marathon and 6.5-mile distances. We have had ages from 5 months to 70 years walking (or being carried!). KTF T-shirts are provided as well as lots of tasty refreshments along the way and there are goodie bags for anyone raising over £250 sponsorship. Every walker meeting their £100 sponsorship target also gets a fab Aspinline made KTF pin badge! More info and registration details can be found at www.kittarkafoundation.org/walk. There are many other ways you can help too - for example, enter a sporting event, arrange cake sales, encourage your employer to make us their charity of the year or ask for donations in lieu of birthday or wedding presents etc. Other than that, please just spread the word - awareness is key.”
We have just supplied some patches to the foundation, how will you be using these?
“The patches will form part of our merchandise for promotion of Kit Tarka Foundation. We wanted them originally for our sponsored walk which was held last week in Sussex. We included the patches in a goodie bag which we rewarded top fundraisers with. We also had them available with our Aspinline pin badges to give to people who had raised over £100. Lots of the younger walkers chose the iron-on patches rather than the pin badges, so it was lovely having them both available. It also meant our youngest KTF supporter was able to join in on the day with his own branded babygrow!”
What was your overall experience working with Aspinline?
“We enjoyed working with Aspinline - they are very prompt with the design turnaround and any changes I wanted were implemented swiftly. We loved the final product - it looks great and is of high quality. We have been pleased with all our Aspinline products.”
Would you recommend Aspinline products?
“Absolutely. We have been happy with the price as well as pleased with the quality of the products and the responsiveness of the Aspinline Team.”
Thank you to Sarah for taking the time to talk to us. It was great to hear about the extremely valuable work that the Kit Tarka Foundation does. We look forward to working with the charity again in the future!