Claire Shipley, aged 27, from Brandesburton, East Yorkshire, went into labour at 26 weeks, meaning her son, Bobby needed urgent care at a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
A lack of capacity at her local maternity unit meant Claire was rushed to Sheffield’s Jessop Wing, leaving her terrified that she’d be unable to stay close to Bobby if he faced the complications that many premature babies endure.
Claire said: “I’d had a normal pregnancy, I didn’t have any sickness and I was in good health. The only thing that was mentioned during the scans was that Bobby was sitting low.
“One day I woke with pains in my back and lower abdomen, which got progressively worse throughout the night and the following morning. At first it was thought that I had pelvic girdle pain, but after being connected to a monitor and being seen by a doctor, it was confirmed that I was in early labour.
“Unfortunately there was no space at my local maternity hospital’s NICU, so I was transferred to the Jessop Wing by ambulance for procedures to delay my labour.
“Once I arrived I was given a steroid injection, but it was too late to put a stitch in. When I realised what was going to happen I was very scared but I wasn’t prepared for what did happen, I don’t think you ever could be.
“Bobby was born at 26+3 weeks, weighing just 2lb 4oz. He was put on a ventilator for the first eight weeks of his life, and had many complications including needing blood transfusions, infections, a bleed on the brain, scans and X-rays.
“As he wasn’t stable enough to be moved to our local hospital, I was worried that if we weren’t allowed to stay on the ward, how we would be able to afford hotel accommodation. Going home each day wouldn’t have been an option.
“But then we were offered one of the parent accommodation flats just around the corner. I was so relieved.”
Babies receiving their care on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are amongst the poorliest in the country. For parents this means spending weeks, even months in hospital not knowing if their child will survive.
Like Claire, many in this situation have no choice but to commute between hospital and home for the duration of their child’s stay because they cannot afford to stay close to NICU.
Most families from across the region are desperate to stay close to their babies, to have a place they can call ‘home’, emotionally recharge, eat and sleep in the comfort that in the case of an emergency they are a just a few minutes from their child.
Thanks to the generous support of local people, Sheffield Hospitals Charity has been able to fund the conversion of four flats, just five minutes walk from the Jessop Wing. The family accommodation, is a place that mums and dads can call their own for as long as their baby is receiving care.
“The flat was brilliant. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to be with Bobby all day, every day. I wouldn’t have been able to leave him with him being so tiny and poorly. I knew he could have deteriorated quickly. It also gave us a sense of normality at such a difficult time, they were so homely.
“After nine weeks Bobby was stable enough to be moved to Hull, so I was able to go home. I was so thankful that the accommodation was available, and for people for donating to such a worthwhile cause.
“To say thank you, we and a group of our friends are taking part in the Jessops Superheroes event – it’ll be amazing to be able to give something back.”
To help raise funds to improve the care and treatment of babies and their families on the Jessop Wing and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Sheffield Hospitals Charity is hosting its fourth annual superhero event, which has now raised more than £50k in the last three years.
Jessops Superheroes, sponsored by DuoCall, is a sponsored 2.5k or 4k family walk, buggy push, toddle or trike to help raise funds for the city’s tiniest patients.
The event takes place on Sunday 21st May 2017 at Graves Park at 10.30am. There is a £15 minimum sponsorship for all who take part. All who take part will be given a free superhero or cape or bib.