‘TinyLife were amazing. We would be lost without them’
Six babies are born prematurely each day in the north.
TinyLife, Northern Ireland’s only premature and sick baby charity, provides practical advice and emotional support to families during one of the most stressful times of their lives.
One local mum, whose baby was born six weeks early, said she would have been lost without the charity.
Sinead McGroary, from Castlederg, had already lost a baby due to miscarriage in April 2017, and a second in November 2017 to molar pregnancy.
At 39 she thought that was it; that she had missed her chance to have a family.
But happily in July 2018, she was pregnant again. Sinead recalls, “The first 12 weeks were not smooth, which made us even more nervous, although regular scans and positive encouragement from midwives were brilliant. Everything seemed to settle down until after waking from a nap, I lost my footing at the top of the stairs and fell. Thankfully all was ok. “As Christmas approached I developed gestational diabetes. This was challenging alongside an adjusted diet as I was taking tablets and insulin and testing my bloods regularly throughout the day.” Then at 33 weeks and three days, while finalising her St John Ambulance first aid course, Sinead began haemorrhaging. Baby Andrew was born by caesarean and taken to the NICU. Sinead had never heard of TinyLife until this point.
“Staff in maternity told me that TinyLife provided breast pumps. They were amazing, so helpful and welcoming over the phone and when they visited the unit. When my partner picked up the breast pump, a little bundle of knitted cardigans, hats, booties and blankets were also included for our little man. It was so beautiful.”
Andrew spent just two weeks and two days in the NICU before he went home with his parents. “When we returned the pump to TinyLife the staff couldn’t have been nicer. They let me know about the mother and baby group events and other programmes available. The baby massage was wonderful. We also got to connect with our local mother and baby group,” Sinead said. “The volunteers and staff of TinyLife have been so helpful and supportive. I get texts regularly about different events coming up and the Facebook page advertises events and support groups. TinyLife have been an amazing support to our family and continue to do so. We’d be lost without them.”
Sinead advises all new parents to accept offers of help and to connect with others. “My advice for new parents and families is at all stages, to ask questions, connect with groups where possible, take all the help you are offered and go to any events you can. It really helps with you mental health to stay connected.” Over 2000 babies are born too soon, too small or too sick each year in the north.
Some arrive as early as 24 weeks, weighing as little as 1lb/454 grams, the same weight as half a bag of sugar. TinyLife provides practical advice, emotional support and to give a helping hand to families who have a baby in a neonatal intensive care unit, with their network of Family Support professionals in every neonatal unit across Northern Ireland.
This ensures parents receive optimum support in hospital, at home and within the community.
The charity funds research and provides a wide range of support services for families of premature and sick babies, including a breast pump loan service, hospital based support, home based volunteer support, baby massage, tiny gym, parents support group and baby sensory room service.
Last year, the charity delivered over 11,000 hours of family support to families across the north.
TinyLife has invited everyone to celebrate the annual PREMvember event throughout the month of November.
The event not only marks World Prematurity Day on November 17 but also highlights the vital on-going services provided by the charity. PREMvember gives participants the chance to eat cake and raise money for the six premature babies born every day in Northern Ireland.
Individuals, community groups, churches and workplaces are welcome to take part and make a difference for families of premature babies. Fundraising packs are provided so people can throw a tea party, have a cuppa with a friend, organise an office tea party - large or small, it will make a difference with every penny raised being spent locally through TinyLife.
Alternatively, if tea and cake is not your thing, other fundraising events are welcome throughout November.
To take part in this year’s PREMvember campaign call 028 9081 5050 or visit www.tinylife.org.uk
Fundraising packs can be downloaded at www.buytickets.at/tinylife For further information on TinyLife please visit tinylife.org.uk or find Tinylife on Facebook and Twitter.