A mother who had to be apart from her baby while he received specialist treatment from doctors has helped launch a bid to raise half a million pounds to help transform care for premature and sick babies in Surrey.
Sarah Benton, 37, from Farnham is sharing her story in support of the Closer to Care campaign, which will deliver a new Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at Royal Surrey County Hospital.
Her youngest son Edward spent 10 days in the hospital’s SCBU, following his birth by emergency caesarean section in March, after a scan revealed he didn’t have enough fluid around him. He was born with a knot in the umbilical cord and was taken straight from theatre to special care to be stabilised. Despite receiving what she described as ‘amazing care’, Sarah said the hardest part was not being able to stay with her newborn baby on the unit overnight.
“Being away from Edward is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I was on a postnatal bay with lots of other mums who all had their babies with them and it was very upsetting and very isolating – to hear another baby crying at night and to not be able to hold or be near my own little baby was heartbreaking.”
In partnership with Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the official hospital charity has launched a £500,000 appeal to redevelop SCBU so that parents will be able to stay overnight on the unit. The launch coincided with International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day; a day which celebrates and promotes the benefits of close contact (also known as skin-to-skin contact) between baby and parent, particularly for those born prematurely.
Sarah has seen first hand the benefits of skin-to-skin contact. She said when she was close to Edward, the need for any pain medication following her caesarean reduced drastically.
“I didn’t hurt when I was with him. When Edward was in the incubator, he was hooked up to a monitor for his oxygen levels, heart rate and respiratory rate, and they all improved when he was on my chest.”
The innovative project will allow parents with babies who are born sick or premature to help care for and be close to their baby at any time – making it the first unit of its type across Surrey, Sussex and Kent, to provide comfortable overnight accommodation for parents next to their babies’ cots.
Dr Mark Evans, Chief of Service for Women and Children at the hospital, said the Trust was proud of the ‘outstanding’ rating its maternity services received from the Care Quality Commission but is keen to do more to further improve care for babies and mums.
“There are many benefits for both baby and parent when families are more involved in their babies’ care – including improved long-term health outcomes, enhanced bonding, reduced hospital stays and reduced stress – which is why we promote and encourage family-centred care at Royal Surrey.
“Being able to stay overnight will not only benefit mum and baby – it will mean the baby’s dad also has the option to stay with his child. This can be particularly helpful if one parent or carer needs to return home or if the mother is still receiving care on the postnatal ward.”
Plans for the new unit will also include a family room, which will offer much-needed privacy for families receiving sensitive news, and a separate space for siblings to play with toys and visitors to gather and spend time together.
Analiese Doctrove, Head of Fundraising at Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity, said:
“We’ve met so many parents like Sarah, who tell us the care they receive is excellent and the staff are incredible, but that it is so difficult to leave their baby overnight. We know that this can be distressing for families and that this project will significantly benefit both premature and sick babies and their families – helping them to thrive, create positive memories and feel safe.
“We need support from the local community to do this; so whether you’d like to donate, fundraise, share your story, or help in other ways, please get in touch.”
To make a donation or to find out more about the campaign, visit www.rschcharity.org.uk/closertocare or call the charity on 01483 464146.