First Touch Supporting Sick & Premature Babies at St George’s Hospital

 

First Touch Supporting Sick & Premature Babies at St George’s Hospital

 

The NHS celebrated its 70th birthday in July. St George’s Hospital’s celebrations included a big courtyard tea party with stalls, choirs and speeches.

First Touch had a stall, complete with a giant panda waiting for a lucky winner to name him correctly, and we were delighted to chat with retired midwives, current and ex-neonu staff and families bringing their neonatal ‘graduates’ back to the hospital for the day.

It certainly brought home the brilliant work of the neonatal unit and the wonderful staff.

As the charity attached to the neonatal unit at St George’s, our work is varied.

We fund specialist training for nurses, and last month we paid for six nurses to attend a bereavement course in London, giving ideas and instances of best practice to support and help families when their precious baby dies.

Our main area of work is to fund state of the art medical equipment.

Recently we were asked by neonatal consultants to fund three BabyLeo incubators, the latest and newest incubators on the market.

The first was funded by the family of baby Archie, in his memory.

We are currently fundraising for the other two. Incubators are vital to care for the small and vulnerable babies in our care.

More details on the incubator campaign here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/neonatalbabyleos

Our other main area of work is to help families with babies on the neonatal unit.

Kangaroo care, where babies are placed on their parent’s chest for prolonged skin-to-skin contact, has huge benefits for sick and premature babies.

It regulates their heart beat, breathing and temperature as well as stabilising their metabolism.

It is also incredibly important for the emotional well-being of the babies and their parents, enabling families to bond at what is a very stressful time for parents.

Special reclining Kangaroo Care Chairs make it possible for parents to hold their babies in a safe and comfortable way, even with all the tubes and wires needed for their treatment.

As part of our fundraising for 20 of these chairs, which cost £1440 each, we are asking schools, nurseries, gyms and fitness classes, as well as individuals of all ages, to organise sponsored bounces.

You could use trampolines, space hoppers, pogo sticks, or just jump, as you Bounce For Babies – like a kangaroo!

Details of the chairs can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kangaroocarechairs

With the heatwave we’ve been helping to keep nursing staff and families cool with free ice lollies and fruit cordials. This is in addition to the tea and coffee that we provide for families.

With 600 babies at the neonatal unit each year, a neonatal charity’s work is never done.

Next we’ll be planning for World Prematurity Day on November 17th, for the Christmas party for neonatal ‘graduates’ and Christmas stockings for all babies on the neonatal unit on Christmas Day, as well as the annual Neonatal Memorial Service.

Because of the highly specialist care and neonatal surgery available at St George’s we take babies from a wide area, including the south east and the south coast.

First Touch is a small charity, dedicated to supporting the babies, families and neonatal staff at St George’s. All donations are very gratefully received and will make a difference to every baby cared for at the neonatal unit.

Our daughter Emilia’s friend Molly

Babies born in the Hersham area needing specialist care will be transferred to St Georges and will directly benefit from the support provided by First Touch

Our daughter Emilia first met Molly at Toad Hall nursery well over 4 years ago and it is hard to believe that her start in life was so challenging.

This is her story, as told by Molly’s Mum, Alice.molly_baby

When Molly was born she was immediately placed in an incubator and whisked into neonatal intensive care in St Georges Hospital in Tooting.  She was placed on life support and required various drugs to keep her stable (this picture is Molly 2 weeks old before her life saving surgery).

Molly has Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) – a condition where a hole in the diaphragm allowed her stomach and bowel to move into her chest cavity restricting the growth of her lung. Doctors could not predict how efficient her lungs would be so no one knew if she would be able to breath when born. No one knows what causes CDH and those born with it have a 50% survival rate.

During her first 48 hours everything looked positive but then things changed and Molly was in a very critical condition. The doctors told us there was nothing more they could do – Molly needed to show some strength.

Losing Molly was a real possibility so we took her hand and foot prints and a lock of hair for our memory box. We registered her birth as the idea of registering her birth and death on the same day was too unbearable to consider.

It took over 3 weeks before Molly was well enough to have surgery and it was so scary watching her being wheeled into theatre.

Molly’s recovery from surgery was amazing and she went from strength to strength.

However, she did require numerous blood transfusions, blew a hole in her good lung, developed a hole in her heart and on Christmas Day was thought to have meningitis to top it all!

She finally came home after nearly 3 months in hospital and although has daily medication for her heart is now doing really well.

Spending time in intensive care watching your child battling for life is so tough. The equipment is expensive and the staff are amazing so please help us raise money for the intensive care unit.

First Touch is the charity that gives babies like Molly a chance to live, and here she is 6 years later (we are also delighted to say Emilia and Molly are still friends!).

Hersham Hub:  Every donation makes a difference, the machine that ventilated Molly to help her breathe costs over £25,000.

A specialist cot that Molly was put in costs £1,300.

A donation of just £10 will pay for a Christmas stocking for a baby on the unit.

If you would like to find out more about First Touch: www.first-touch.org.uk/

Ever wondered what they do at First Touch? Read on for A Day In The Life of a Family Centred Care Coordinator

 

A day in the life of a Family Centred Care Coordinator at St George’s Hospital Neo Natal Unit.

How do we describe ourselves to families? ‘Family centred care coordinator’ tends to get stuck round the teeth like the verbal equivalent of a chewy toffee. ‘Don’t worry about the job title’ we say, ‘…basically we are here to help you to be as involved with your baby as you want to be…’ We are a ‘friend’, little pixies running around gladly doing seemingly ridiculous jobs for these wonderful families so they don’t have to. Anything that makes their life easier or more bearable….

So what do we spend all our time doing? No day is ever the same on the neonatal unit! As every parent knows, the journey most of these babies take is long, bizarre, difficult, and requires the patience of a saint and the commitment of…..well, a parent!

I walk down the corridor at the beginning of the day. I can’t help but look into the nurseries to see if there are any new babies, new families I don’t recognise, or if that baby I was worried about during my day off has made it through the night.

I start off in high dependency, passing some time with some long term parents whom I know well. The professional boundaries are clear. There is no complication here. We have a mutual understanding that in this time and in this place I am their friend, someone who has walked beside them from the first day their baby was born. They can tell me anything, and I will listen. Advice is usually not required or asked for, but they know if they need anything I will do my best to sort it out, even if it takes me all day.

I find out about a new couple about to have a caesarean section for their premature twins, so pop round to the delivery suite. I meet a wide-eyed mum and dad-to be. Their eyes are hopeful, anxious, scared and excited. My job is not to tell them everything will be ok, but to reassure them that the unit they are about to entrust their precious babies to is a wonderful one, a unit where they will be encouraged to be a mummy and daddy. Somewhere their parenting role can begin, not go on hold until discharge day. I leave them, promising to meet them after they have had their babies.

On my way back I bump into a mum who looks fed up. It transpires she is finding expressing her milk a nightmare and is worried about her production. We find somewhere quiet to sit and have a chat. It is never just about milk! There are tears, tissues, and often laughter as well. I show her some practical tips and tricks, and congratulate her on her efforts thus far. Producing milk is about so much more than the sum total of that precious liquid – it is motherly devotion, encapsulating something unique and precious for one mother and her baby, perhaps the only ‘normal’ thing she can do.

On my way back to attempt a lunch break, I meet the new father of twins looking lost, and show him where his babies are being looked after. He can’t visit them yet – the team are stabilising the babies and getting them settled and comfortable. Instead, I show him around, tell him about some of the babies on our story board, and answer a few quick questions. He tells me that they live 30 miles away, and I promise to refer them to our Ronald McDonald House facility on site. I then walk with him back up to the post-natal ward and congratulate the new Mummy. After helping her to express for the first time, I head back down to the unit, buoyed by the proud beam she gave me as she handed over her liquid gold. I strikes me as showing incredible trust that I am given this wonderful substance to take down to the nursery, and I deliver it straight away, labelling it carefully for these two new arrivals.

Having done a few other jobs for a couple of families, I am amazed to see that yet another day has gone. It will have been a day of great joy, and bittersweet memories for some of the families. It is just another day of so many in a long journey for others. But as I walk out of the hospital to go home to my own family, tired, probably starving hungry, I know for certain that I have made one of those endless days just a tiny bit better for the families I spoke to. And, I have to say, that puts a big, proud beam on my face too.

This is a role that is funded by the charity First Touch (http://www.first-touch.org.uk/)

First Touch was set up in 1998 to support the babies, families and staff on the Neonatal Unit at St George’s Hospital. We are the only charity dedicated to the nnu at St George’s and the money raised by our supporters goes directly to fund equipment and projects to improve outcomes for the babies and their families.

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