Jason and Clara: In Memory of Maudie - Why every parent should watch this documentary

It makes for emotional viewing

Jason Watkins and wife Clara Francis sat on an orange sofa holding a photo frame with a picture of their daughter Maude
(Image credit: Future/ITV)

Jason Watkins and his wife Clara Francis open up on an experience that is every parent's worst nightmare.

Every now and then a documentary comes along that reminds you of how precious life is and how cruel and unexpected it can be. It's a message that really hits home in ITV's Jason and Clara: In Memory of Maudie which sees The Catch and Line of Duty actor Jason Watkins - and his wife Clara - share their story of two-year-old daughter Maude, who tragically passed away on New Year's Day in 2011 after contracting Sepsis.

Over a decade on from the event, the family are moving on from the home where Maddie lived and died, and feel the time is right to tell their tale and explore their grief. Viewers get an intimate insight into Jason and Clara's journey - with cameras even present at the couple's first therapy session opening up on the trauma. We also hear from other parents who have lost young children - with all parties hoping that their shared experiences will help break down barriers when talking about child bereavement.

"Even after 11 years, it's still sort of shocking," Clara shares in the trailer. Jason continues: "I do feel apprehensive because it's a delicate thing and you think 'Are you doing the right thing?' But it does feel something to be shared and it can help us and other people."

"It's about breaking down the taboo of child loss," adds Clara. "It's so grim and unspeakable, people don't know what to say, people don't know how to act around you. But also I want to talk about her and people will know that she was here."

Maude's story

Watkins remembers Maude - affectionately called 'Maudie' by her family - as a "happy child, wise and centred". Appearing on Giovanna Fletcher's Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast he explained how Maude died.

The infant first developed flu like symptoms in the lead up to New Year in 2011. After symptoms failed to disappear after a week, Jason and Clara took Maude to the GP concerned that it hadn't shifted. The actor explains that he was worried it had turned into a chest infection.

"So, I then took her to the A&E, and the doctor was like 'You know what, she's got croup. It's fine! Give her these steroids'... He was very reassuring," adds Clara. The next morning the alarm was raised when Maude "couldn't find breath". 

"She was losing consciousness; she was pale and flopping," Jason continues. "So we then decided not to order an ambulance, we just got in the car (…) and we were trying to keep her awake by shouting. 

"It was really awful for about 15 minutes, to get to the hospital. After an hour she was sort of calmer, her temperature had fallen. Then it was a consultant that said 'It might be better to take her home because there's more familiar surroundings.' It didn't feel right at the time, and that's when the guilt comes in of course."

The next morning, the couple's oldest child Bessie came into her parent's room and told them she couldn't wake Maude up.

"I just knew," said Clara. "Because there was a part of me, my sort of motherly instinct was, she is really ill. But because the doctors kept saying, 'its fine' I thought 'oh ok'. Because, before something like this happens you are trusting of doctors, you kind of go 'if the doctor, who went to medical school, is telling me this then I'm going to believe it.' 

"But when I look back my instinct was, no this is really serious. And I wish I had been more trusting of my instinct, which I am now."

After Maude's death, Jason and Clara learnt that their daughter had developed Sepsis. According to the NHS website, the condition is a life-threatening reaction to an infection which sees the immune system overreact and "start to damage your body's own tissues and organs." 

If not caught or treated early, Sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure and death. It's a condition that can affect people of all ages, but is hard to diagnose in "babies and young children, people with dementia, people with a learning disability and people who have difficulty communicating".

Sepsis symptoms - What to look out for

Parents looking for signs of sepsis in a baby or young child should look for blue, grey, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue. "On brown or black skin, this may be easier to see on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet," advises the NHS.

Other symptoms include difficulty breathing, a high-pitched cry that differs from their normal cry and a rash (which like meningitis, doesn't fade when you roll a glass over it). They could also present sleepier than usual and not respond as they would normally - e.g. uninterested in feeding or normal activities.

"There are lots of possible symptoms," states the NHS, and they might not display all of them. "They can be like symptoms of other conditions, including flu or a chest infection. If you think you or someone you look after has symptoms of sepsis, call 999 or go to A&E. Trust your instincts."

The same symptoms list applies to older children and adults who may have developed sepsis, with the addition of slurred speech, acting confused and not making sense.

Jason and Clara both admit to feeling some blame after Maude's death, with the loss that "much more painful" with the knowledge that "this is a death that could have been avoided."

"To know that your child could potentially be a 14-year-old girl going out having a really fabulous life when it didn't happen for her is particularly difficult," Clara told Fletcher on the podcast. "Why didn't I scream and shout at the hospital and demand they keep her there? I failed at the thing I was supposed to be doing, I was supposed to keep her alive."

Jason and Clara have campaigned over the last 10 years to raise awareness of Sepsis and child bereavement generally. Both are patrons of the charities SLOW and Child Bereavement UK, which both offer support to bereaved parents and siblings in the UK following the devastating loss of a child.

Jason is also an ambassador for UK Sepsis Trust, which was set up by NHS consultant Dr Ron Daniels BEM in 2012, with the vision to "end preventable deaths from Sepsis". According to the Trust, 52,000 people die because of sepsis each year in the UK - 1,000 of these deaths being children. 

With sepsis diagnoses that much more difficult in babies and young children, Jason and Clara: In Memory of Maudie is a must-watch piece of television for parents. It educates in the hope that others won't have to suffer the same experience. But additionally shares guidance for extended communities on how they can support bereaved families when the worst happens.

Further support and resources

Jason & Clara: In Memory of Maudie airs Thursday, March 29, at 9.00pm on ITV1 and is available to stream on ITVX.

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Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the former Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.