The group of fancy dress walkers included nine children who had been treated at Royal Surrey's Special Care Baby Unit.
‘Special Care Babies’ and their families donning fancy dress to give back to the unit that cared for them have raised over £1,200 for babies in Surrey who need special care.

Parents of two children born premature, Catherine and Russell Wait, organised the 5K fancy dress walk with friends and family in aid of Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity’s Closer to Care campaign after their children spent a total of 10 weeks in the hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).

The money raised from the walk will go towards the charity’s £500,000 appeal to redevelop the hospital’s current SCBU. Once complete, parents with premature or sick babies will have the option to stay overnight, next to their babies’ cot – something which is not possible at many neonatal units across the country due to limited space and resource.

Russell as Henry VIII, Catherine as a bumblebee, Lottie as Tinkerbell and Freddie as Superman.

Catherine said:

“The option to stay by our babies’ sides overnight would have saved us a lot of tears. When we heard about the plans for the redevelopment, we felt strongly that we wanted to support the charity and try to help other parents going through something similar.”

She described the care for daughter Lottie, now 5-years-old, Freddie, born in January this year – and the whole family – as ‘fantastic’ but that she found it ‘heart-wrenching’ to leave her tiny babies overnight in SCBU.

She said:

“In the day it felt as right as it could be, but as the day came to a close and we had to leave, everything felt so wrong and so unfair.”

Lottie was born four and a half weeks early weighing just 3lb 2oz after Catherine developed HELLP syndrome, a rare liver and blood clotting disorder that can affect pregnant women. While Catherine was discharged a week after the birth, Lottie had to stay at Royal Surrey County Hospital’s SCBU for a further four weeks to be closely monitored and to ensure she gained weight.

Five years after her first SCBU experience, Catherine gave birth to her son Freddie by emergency caesarean after her placenta erupted, 10 weeks before her due date. Catherine and Russell then spent the next five and a half weeks living a ‘strange split life’, trying to be with Freddie at hospital, while balancing Lottie’s needs.

Catherine added:

“We have a lot to be so very grateful for with both our SCBU journeys, however, having a baby in SCBU is tough – very tough. Anything that can help make this easier is a must and the plans for more space and more room for families and siblings would be a fantastic addition to the unit.”

The event saw 43 of the couple’s friends and family gather in fancy dress for the walk, which took place along the old railway line in Cranleigh. Of the 17 children who also took part in the walk, 9 had been cared for in Royal Surrey’s SCBU following birth. Costumes included Henry VIII, bumblebees and a flamingo with Lottie as Tinkerbell and Freddie dressed as Superman.

Catherine added:

“It was fabulous to see everyone enjoying themselves all in the name of a fabulous cause. We headed back to the pavilion for tea and cakes where a few more lovely people joined us. A huge thank you to our tea makers and all our bakers – there were some delicious cakes.”

Analiese Doctrove, Head of Fundraising at Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity, said:

“We are incredibly grateful to the Wait family – not only for organising the event but for sharing their story, which really highlights the difference the redeveloped unit will make to new parents. If you’d like to support babies like Lottie or Freddie who need special care – and their families – please do get in touch.

“Thank you to everyone who took part in the fancy dress walk – you raised a fantastic amount.”

To make a donation to Closer to Care or to fundraise for the appeal, visit www.rschcharity.org.uk/closertocare or call 01483 464146.