Inspired parents of twin girls who were cared for on the neonatal unit at the University Hospital of North Tees have set up a charity in honour and remembrance of their daughter Grace.
Parents Charlotte and Scott Feltham from Hebburn have set up the charity Walking with Grace to support families with babies who need intensive care or high dependency incubated neonatal care; at the University Hospital of North Tees, with the gift of a Cuski Miniboo – a mini comforter which helps parents bond with their babies in incubators.
Diabetic mum, Charlotte was aware pregnancy was not going to be easy, however complications over and beyond what she and Scott had anticipated and their twin girls Grace and Bella were born nine weeks early.
Charlotte had been seen by a senior fetal medicine specialist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle to monitor both of the girls closely.
Due to the complications in Charlotte’s pregnancy, she and Scott had visited the neonatal unit at the RVI, knowing their girls would require neonatal care, as they were due to be delivered by caesarean section at 34 weeks.
Charlotte, 27 who works as a physiotherapist, said: “During the visit we saw that all the babies received Cuski comforters, which are NHS approved for use within a neonatal unit. Our twins should have been born at the RVI in Newcastle, but there were no intensive care cots available, when Grace decided to make an extra early arrival into the world.
“I was rushed to the University Hospital of North Tees, which was the nearest hospital with available neonatal intensive care cots, and on 9 May 2015 at 7.44 and 7.45 am Grace and Bella were born at 31 weeks by emergency caesarean section.
“We were warned that Grace was very poorly and there was a chance we would lose her during pregnancy, and if she was born she had a very slim chance of survival.
“We desperately wanted Cuski comforters for our babies, as I had read about the benefits they brought in helping to develop bonding between mother and babies, especially those who were cared for in incubators. The girls’ maternal grandmother Angela rang the RVI neonatal unit to see if she could get the comforters from them, unfortunately that was not possible. After failing to find another local stockist Angela rang Cuski direct and explained the situation to the wonderful Judy who ensured they would be delivered the following day.
“Grace and Bella immediately took to their Cuski Miniboos. I carried them with me, so that my scent was transferred to them before they were given to the girls in their incubators.
“As a parent, it is heart-breaking not to be able to give your new babies a cuddle when you want to and to have to just see them through an incubator. There is always that piece of perspex layer between you and your baby.
“We weren’t able to have their first cuddle with Grace until she was eight days old, it was the hardest time knowing that the nurses and doctors were able to be closer to our little girl than we were.
“Fortunately Bella was recovering from birth and we were able to cuddle her however this at times did make it more difficult for them as they were unable to cuddle Grace in the same way.
“Due to the lack of physical contact with her parents, Grace in particular gained a great deal of comfort from her ‘boo’ as she was able to have the scent of mum with her in her incubator.
“Grace was often found with Cuski over her face, how she managed to do this was always a mystery, but time and time again that was where it was found. When she was distressed the nurses would often place her boo by her face and immediately Grace would calm.
“However, Grace proved she was a fighter and her fighting spirit teamed with the work of the neonatal unit consultants, doctors and nurses meant that we were able to spend precious days getting to know our little girls together.
“Fortunately Bella came out of an incubator after a few days and continued to progress well; she left hospital after a six week stay on the neonatal unit at the University Hospital of North Tees.
“Grace sadly passed away on the 24 June 2015 after 47 amazing days with us. There was nothing more that could be done for her. The doctors had tried everything they could, including new and pioneering ideas to help improve her chances.
“We had always said that because Grace had fought so hard before and after birth that we needed to give her the chance to decide to see if there was a light at the end of her tunnel and that we would continue to fight with her. Grace touched the hearts of many of the nurses, doctors and consultants on the ward in her 47 days with us, she was an inspiration to us all.”
Scott and Charlotte knew they wanted to give something back to the unit who had cared for their little girls and supported them through everything. It seemed appropriate that the charity should be set up in Grace’s name. Walking with Grace now provides the NHS approved Cuski Mini-Boo comforters to parents and babies who required long term incubator care at the University Hospital of North Tees.
Charlotte added: “We can’t thank the staff enough who provided such amazing care for our little girls. For us it was a relief that both the girls were being cared for on the same unit, as they were 45 miles away from home and every member of staff did all they could for them. The amazing care that was provided was not only for the twins but for Charlotte also as she stayed there with the girls, and for Scott when he travelled down three times a week.
“Both Grace and Bella inspired staff and visitors with their amazing progress and infectious personalities. Grace touched so many hearts that Charlotte and Scott felt it was right to start the charity in the hope that in her memory she will continue to do so. It seemed a natural process that the charity should fund the Cuski Boo comforters for the unit as both Grace and Bella got so much comfort from theirs.
“Everyone has been so generous, the charity has raised more than £3,000 though fundraising and the very generous support of OrangeBus which has allowed Charlotte and Scott to make place the first order, receive them and commence giving the Cuskiboos to poorly babies and their parents on the unit.”
Ward matron Debbie Bryan said: “We are so grateful to Charlotte and Scott, who have been extremely thoughtful to consider helping others. The charity will provide a big comfort to many parents in the future.”
Find out how you can support the charity at www.walkingwithgrace.org.uk