A MOTHER who lost her sixth-month-old son to cot death is using his memory to spur her on as she raises money for families suffering in the same way.

Marie and Stephen Horrey's son Alex died suddenly 10 years ago, and they have since raised more than £3,000 for the charity that helped them through their most difficult days.

This year will see the 10th anniversary of Alex's death, but time does not make coping any easier, says Marie.

"Losing a child is one of the hardest things that anyone can go through, and even now, 10 years on, I have my bad days," said the 41-year-old of Summerlin Way, Bluntisham.

Alex died suddenly in August 2001, shortly after catching chicken pox from his brother James, then three. A healthy child, his slow recovery from the virus caused Marie concern.

She said: "He didn't seem quite right, and my intuition told me something was wrong. I took him to the doctors three times and they said it was the chicken pox and he would be over it soon.

"The day he died we had been planning to go food shopping. Stephen fed him at about 5.30am and Alex had slept a little later than usual. I thought he was having a lie-in because he hadn't been well."

Marie went to wake her son. She said: "When I went to his room he was on his tummy, which was unusual. That was when instinct kicked in. I rolled him over and he was dead."

Marie describes the hours and days that followed as "a blur": police arriving at the house to take Alex's blankets and bottles for tests, consultations with doctors at the hospital, the post-mortem that revealed the cause as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Throughout that time, and in the months after, Marie and Stephen were supported by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID).

One of the biggest challenges for parents who have lost a child is the prospect of having another. FSID operates a 'befriender' scheme and a care of next infant (CONI) programme to guide and support parents, and which the Horreys became a part of when they decided to try for another child.

Thirteen months after Alex's death, Mia, now eight, was born.

"It's a very stressful time when you have another child," said Marie. "You feel very vulnerable.

"You can't remember what you did and how you reacted, and I had to be careful I didn't become over the top.

"I was constantly checking Mia: 'Is she breathing? Has she eaten?' That didn't settle down for a couple of years."

Marie says Alex will always be a part of the family and that, inevitably, his death marked a turning point in her life.

She briefly returned to her job in a bank, but soon resigned to retrain as a counsellor. After four years she qualified, and now treats people with alcohol and sexual abuse problems.

She and her husband have also dedicated themselves to raising money for FSID.

Last year Maris ran a 10k, raising £2,500 for FSID and on July 2 threw herself out of a plane for her first - and, she says, last - skydive to raise another £700.

"It changed my life," she said. "Alex's memory spurs me on: I realised that life is very short, and things like this can happen."

INFORMATION: To raise more money for FSID, Marie is hosting an evening of clairvoyance with a raffle and an auction at Bluntisham Village Hall on September 24. For tickets, visit Neros Hairdressers in St Ives or call Marie on 07880 586552.