IF Carren Bell hadn’t been bullied at school she probably would not have become the head of a successful national charity.

The first 13 years of her life were spent in Nottingham where she became the object of some vicious bullying which drove her to despair. Now 39 and CEO of Lagan’s Foundation, she is pragmatic about that time: “Yes, it was awful but it definitely made me what I am today.”

What her childhood also gave her was an interest in the NHS she was later able to draw on. Her parents were Scottish and her father worked in chemical trials in the NHS. It was his job which brought the family to the North-west and Radcliffe.

Her earliest memories are of “sitting in a laboratory, playing with pretend blood” and her early ambitions were to be a vet. She attended Derby High School and Holy Cross College in Bury where she was very sporty, so went on to Bangor University to study leisure and tourism resource management.

Her first job was as a chalet host in Switzerland. When she returned home, she started a series of jobs in credit control for companies varying from motor leasing to the Royal Mail.

By then, she had met her partner Barry Grant and they were living together in Horwich. They had a daughter, Ceridwen, after a pregnancy blighted by acute morning sickness.

Ceridwen was a normal, healthy baby, though, so when Carren again became pregnant, they assumed this baby would also be fine. Sadly, they were wrong. At 22 weeks, they were told their child had a significant heart defect.

Carren and Barry decided to continue with the pregnancy and Lagan Katherine Anne Grant was born in St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester in April, 2011. “But her heart problem was actually far worse than the medical staff had thought it would be,” said Carren.

The baby was transferred to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool and Carren and Barry were offered the choice of palliative care or surgery. They opted for the latter – “we had to give her a chance” - and Lagan had major surgery at seven days old.

Although the prognosis was then “quite good”, when little Lagan eventually came home the reality of caring for a sick baby alone and without medical support kicked in.

“It was a very stressful time,” said Carren. “I was trying to feed her through a tube 17 to 18 hours a day and getting hardly any sleep. It was totally exhausting.” She felt she had little official support as she struggled to feed her poorly baby.

By Easter weekend, Lagan was 15 weeks old but unwell. In the early hours of Easter Monday, they had to call an ambulance and, in a shockingly short time, Lagan passed away.

The death devastated the couple and much of those days remain a blur to Carren. What did strike her quickly, though, was that she needed to make sense of her daughter’s short life. Within a week, she had decided to start a charity in her memory to help other similar families. Lagan’s Foundation was born.

Carren’s plan was to raise money and recruit and train volunteers to support individual families with babies with heart defects and feeding problems. She would base this in the North-west, working initially in Liverpool.

Using Facebook, she gained volunteers from a variety of areas and, by the second year, was extending the service into Newcastle. Each time, the service depended on volunteers being available in the areas where they were needed.

Since then, the charity has placed these volunteer supporters with families all over the country and now has training facilities in Southampton, Liverpool and at UTC in Bolton. “I personally meet all the families and volunteers and supervise the training, which I’ve developed with Training Qualifications UK and which are also recognised by Ofsted,” explained Carren.

Many of the volunteers have had poorly children themselves and two are intensive care nurses. Carren, however, came to realise that the support needed to be extended beyond babyhood so she then managed to get funding for a care package which takes this forward.

Now aged 39 and with another child, Lochlyn aged five, Carren agrees that her job is demanding and difficult but she still loves it and “the feedback from the families is amazing.”

She recognises that she is a very driven person. “I’m very strong-minded and determined,” she stated. “I’m not a team player, I like to lead. But it does get things done.”