United … Gary and Amy Sillett with their son, Callum. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
A YEAR ago Gary Sillett lived through an expectant father's worst nightmare - the premature birth and subsequent death of his child.
He and his wife, Amy, had been excited about the impending arrival of their second son, Isaac, but on December 8 their baby was born by caesarean 14 weeks early.
Isaac ''fought like a trooper'' in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sydney's Royal North Shore hospital, before he died peacefully in his parents' arms two days later. His ashes are in a rocket-ship-shaped container placed in the backyard of their Ryde home.
Mr Sillett took on the responsibility of caring for his wife and their toddler son Callum, informing loved ones and friends, completing reams of paperwork, organising the funeral, figuring out how he was going to go back to work to pay the medical bills as well as dealing with his own grief, anger and guilt.
''Your whole world is turned upside down,'' Mr Sillett said.
He found that fathers dealing with the death of a child or trying to cope when children have life-threatening illnesses were often sidelined and there was a big gap in support services for fathers.
That's when he decided to create Pillars of Strength, an Australian-first initiative designed to give practical support to fathers and some respite from the day-to-day stresses.