Having a premature baby can be a very frightening and stressful time. Last month I met with West Lothian resident Coady Dorman, whose son was born at 29 weeks, and she described how it was to go through the experience and what she is doing now for other parents of premature babies.
“You face so many questions – from practical things like how to care for this tiny, tiny baby, to emotional worry and fear about whether they will be OK. It’s especially frightening when you’re finally sent home, and you’re alone without the hospital staff on hand,” says Coady. “I was given a leaflet about the charity Bliss, and I don’t know how I would have managed without their help.”
Happily, Coady’s son Matthew is now a healthy 3 year old. “We got him home eventually 2 weeks before his normal due date!”
Coady has been fundraising for Bliss ever since she could after Matthew was born, and last year she noticed they were looking for volunteers to become community ambassadors. She began as a Bliss Champion within St John’s Special Care Baby Unit, and this year she took on the added role of Community Ambassador and has been very busy developing the services in West Lothian.
Bliss works hand-in-hand with health professionals to ensure care for babies on the neonatal unit is of the highest possible standard. The charity also provides training and facilitates a community where professionals can share information and support each other to provide the best possible care. But Coady explains that the emotional support is equally as important - looking after the mental health of the parents. “It’s about being a listening ear, as someone who understands what it feels like, reducing the feeling of isolation, answering questions and reassuring parents that support is available.” She spends six to eight hours a week in the St John’s Special Baby Care Unit in Livingston, as well as social media activity to promote the charity, fundraising efforts and to make people aware of the services that are available. She is also working to get information on prematurity out to antenatal groups so that parents are better informed and therefore hopefully less scared (“it’s one of those things you never think will happen to you and is a shock when it does”).
Bliss exists to give every baby born premature and sick babies in the UK the best chance of survival and quality of life. If you would like to help support the charity’s vital work, you can donate to Bliss at bliss.org.uk/appeals If you are a parent in need of support, contact the Bliss helpline on 0808 801 0322
First published in Konect November 2017
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer