James, my youngest son, was born eight years ago at the University Hospital of Wales.
About 30 minutes after he’d made his appearance we (his mum and I) noticed that he was making a funny sound; a sort of whiny wheeze (not an official medical term) that, even to his less than expert parents, seemed not quite right. The midwives, nurses and other medical sorts were quick on the scene – working with care on his tiny body to ascertain the problem.
The ‘grunt’ as they called it, was due to a build up of fluid on his lungs – fluid that really oughtn’t be there at all.
Within the hour James was on his little way to, what they called, The SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) – basically Intensive Care for babies.
As you might imagine this was, to say the very least, a disconcerting time for us parents. James was 6lbs and a bit and about as long as my forearm. He was too ‘ickle, too delicate surely for any kind of lung problems and the thought of him having to go into intensive care sent all sorts of dire thoughts bubbling towards the surface.
After all, the intensive care baby unit was for premature babies and babies with things really wrong with them, wasn’t it?
Well, yes actually.
As it happened James wasn’t seriously ill, but his condition was serious enough that it had to be taken care of fairly swiftly. He spent 5 days on the unit, his first nights in the world spent, not in the arms of his mum or the cosy warmth of a Moses basket but rather a see through plastic incubator with monitors stuck to his tiny torso and a plastic tube protruding from a small hole in his side.
It was upsetting and worrying but, ultimately, a happy outcome was achieved. An outcome the result, in more than a small part, to the amazing, gentle and loving care that those who worked on the unit gave James and all the other babies on the ward. Babies that, for the most part appeared to be in a more precarious state to James. Premature babies so small that you could scarcely believe they were real human beings.
I don’t know what became of the other babies on the unit that they shared with James, my suspicion being that for some, the outcome was not as happy as ours. What I do know, however, is that all those babies were given a truly remarkable level of care – that everything that could be done, was being done.
Furthermore, the empathy and support that parents, siblings and family members were shown provided a vital crutch at such a time of worry.
Which is why it has been my absolute pleasure to have recently been working on the website of the Heath based Charity Special Care Infant Parent Support (SCIPS).
SCIPS is run by staff of the very Neonatal Unit that James spent his first precious days. They raise funds for equipment vital to the care of the babies and materials that can make the life of the parents going through the trauma just that little bit easier. Equally important however, is the care and support that they provide within their tight community to the parents who have gone through the experience, the parents who are going or about to go through it, and to the parents who’ve been tragically bereaved.
The support they give and indeed receive is really amazing and the service they provide is beyond value. Parents past and present routinely raise funds on their behalf, running marathons, climbing mountains and what-not; a testament to the impact the staff and the unit has on people’s lives. In August the Cardiff Devils hosted a charity ice hockey match between Wales and the Rest of the World that generated more than £12,000 for the charity.
The website is another facet of how SCIPS are looking to engage with their donors and, more importantly, the parents – providing a resource for help, info and support and a forum to chat, ask questions and remind each other that they’re not alone.
SCIPS website will be live in the next couple of weeks and it’s been a pleasure to have worked with Louise Bridge and to have gained further insight into the incredible work she and all her colleagues do.