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Redundancy and threat to life prompt journalist to fulfil book ambition

A journalist who took voluntary redundancy has been inspired to fulfil her ambition of writing and illustrating children’s books after suffering a life-threatening lung condition during pregnancy.

Rachael Atkins, who used to work for the Plymouth Herald, has published three books, which she began writing while her baby daughter napped in her arms.

Rachael, pictured, had struggled during pregnancy, having been only two weeks away from her due date in October 2019 when she started experiencing agonising chest pains.

Thankfully, her daughter was delivered safely by C-section a week later.

Rachael Atkins

Rachael told the Herald: “It was Halloween night, of all things. I started getting pain in my chest like heartburn and it just got worse and worse.

“I was very lucky to have had an uneventful pregnancy until then and suddenly I was in the Emergency Department. It turned out I had blood clots on both my lungs, a bilateral pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

“My husband and I felt so blessed to have our daughter,. But it was also a very dark and scary time, mentally and physically.

“A few months later the whole country was going through a very dark and scary time with Covid. I think all of that affected the way I thought about things.

“I didn’t want to put anything off. I had dreamed, like a lot of people, of writing books for a long time and I decided to just do it.”

Rachael’s rhyming picture books are titled Brian the Dandelion, Feathers McGee, and The Snail Mail and are all available on Amazon.

Her journalist husband Paul serves as editor of the books, while her daughter is in charge of quality control.

Rachael added: “I love that we’re all involved. I rely on Paul’s eagle eyes to hunt for stray commas and give me feedback about what works and what doesn’t.

“I try not to let my ego get in the way. What matters is whether the story works. Our little girl is the perfect critic at her age.

“She’s very quick to tell me what she thinks. They’re both my secret weapons.”