World Prematurity Day marked in colourful style

Once again, staff at Bradford Royal Infirmary’s Neonatal Unit (NNU) marked World Prematurity Day in colourful style.

I hear that the day, which raises awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide, was celebrated with all things purple - the official colour of the day,

Not only did staff dress in purple and decorate the unit with purple bunting and balloons, but there were even purple treats to eat as well as a raffle and tombola.

Special guests included Gemma Collins-Ellis, an ambassador for BLISS, the UK charity working to provide the best possible care and support for all premature and sick babies and their families, and the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Bradford, Coun Abid Hussain and Mrs Shahnaz Akhtar.

The awareness day was also the perfect opportunity for the neonatal unit to launch its new rucksack welcome packs.

Senior Neonatal Sister, Suzi Minchella told me: “The new packs will be given to all mums on arrival in the unit and will contain hats, blankets and nappies for the babies, which encourage parents to get involved with their babies as soon as possible. There will also be basic items for mums such as toiletries.

“Often mums don’t have time to plan or get organised when babies are brought into the neonatal unit so these items can help. The welcome packs also help to bring a sense of normality to surroundings which at first can seem very daunting.”

Families past and present were invited to take part in the day and they included mum Catherine McCarthy of Oxenhope, who returned to the unit to say thank you after it treated daughter Isobel.

Isobel was born on 16 February at BRI at just 26 weeks, and remained in the Neonatal Unit for three months before moving to Airedale Hospital, where she stayed for a further month.

Catherine said: “I have so much to thank everyone at the unit for. They are all absolutely amazing. I never thought I would be standing here with her after everything we went through and we will always be grateful to them. Isobel is developing well and everything is normal now.

“It’s been mixed emotions coming back. It’s been lovely to meet everyone again and tell them how grateful we are, but I definitely felt a few emotions coming in. I remembered worrying about whether we would be able to bring her home.”

Catherine’s mum, Mary Mitchell, who also came along, celebrated her 70th birthday earlier this month but, instead of presents, she asked for cash donations to be made to the Bradford Hospitals’ Children’s Charity.

Suzi added: “It’s lovely to see past families coming back with their babies and young children who are now thriving. It’s also really helpful for families of the babies who are on the unit at present to meet them as it gives them hope and encouragement on what can sometimes be a long journey before they can take their babies home.”

An estimated 15 million babies around the world are born prematurely each year and one million of them do not survive their early birth. Bradford’s neonatal unit cares for around 500 babies each year from around the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Once again, our wonderful Bradford Hospitals Children’s Charity (BHCC) pulled out all the stops to make the day go with a swing, organising many of the events – and even arranging for Bradford City Hall to be floodlit purple; on World Prematurity Day, prominent buildings and landmarks in many countries are lit in purple to honour babies born too soon.

Neonatal Matron, Kelly Young told me: “The day was fantastic and we were delighted to welcome special guests to the neonatal unit, including parents and siblings as well as colleagues from the wider BTHFT team.

“We were completely overwhelmed by the donations we received from the wider community for our raffle and tombola. It has been very touching.”

The unit has also put together an Amazon wish list of equipment that will give the unit a homely feel for parents and babies. It can be found here:

A ‘wish tree’ on which parents can hang handmade tags, recording their hopes and wishes for their babies and the unit is also being planned.

Money raised will be split equally between the Bradford Hospitals’ Charity (Neonatal Trust Fund) and BLISS.