The Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary cares for over 750 of the North East and Cumbria’s smallest and most critically ill babies every year. The cost to the hospital of this first class service is huge and it is supported by the charity Tiny Lives and its dedicated donors and supporters.
“We are very aware that having a premature baby is a very frightening time for families,” said Dr Alan Fenton, consultant neonatal paediatrician. “Tiny Lives helps us remember that with every baby there is a family and there are certain things that families need to get them through that journey that hospitals don’t provide.”
The new film, commissioned by Tiny Lives, aims to show the journey of babies and their families through the unit – a journey that can take up to six months for the smallest babies, born as early as 23 weeks. But even one week can feel like a lifetime when your child is fighting for their life.
The most seriously ill babies are cared for in the intensive care red area, they then move to the high dependency blue area before reaching the low dependency green area.
The film shows the wide range of services the charity funds, including developmental aids, physiotherapy, emotional and financial support, specialist training, accommodation for families a long way from home, bereavement counselling and research.
Tiny Lives patron, England rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson, said: “This is a powerful film that helps to show both the fantastic work by staff on the unit and also how supporters of Tiny Lives are making a real difference to the lives of some of the country’s most premature and critically ill babies and their families.”
One of the couples to share their story of their time in the red area is Louiza and Martin Caulfield, whose son Felix was born weighing just 1lb 6oz at 31 weeks.
“I was so excited, we had been planning our third baby for some time, so when we found out we were expecting it was amazing,” said Louiza, of Morpeth, Northumberland. “They said they would give me one extra scan, but everything looked great.
“Within a few seconds of the scan, the sonographer’s face completely changed. She said he wasn’t growing the way he should be, her estimate was he’d stopped growing at 19 weeks.
“I was showing signs of preeclampsia and was admitted to hospital that day. It was very unlikely that he was going to survive, but we wanted to name him. One of the names was Felix – a sky diver who jumped to earth from space.
“I had an emergency section, then I heard a gerbil-like noise. Martin and I looked at each other – he was breathing, he was my baby and he was looking right at me.”
Thanks to the care of the SCBU team Felix will celebrate his third birthday in June.
One in nine babies born in England is born before full-term every year.
Kyle and Jake defied the odds to fight back to health after being born at just 23 weeks.
Nichola, 31, said: “We came in one day and there were these star stickers on their incubators. They said ‘I’m in the kilo club.’ It’s such a small thing, but it’s such a massive label to be able to put onto your boys.”
Gordon and Kirsty Stuart, of West Allotment, North Tyneside, also tell how their daughter Islay’s life was saved after she was born with a life-threatening bowel condition.
Remembering their time on the green area, Gordon, 26, of West Allotment, North Tyneside, said: “We’d been for a bite of lunch and a nurse came running over – ‘She’s had a poo, she’s had a poo.’ I don’t think we’ve ever been that happy to clear up a poo since then, definitely not now.”
Carol Meredith, Head of Tiny Lives said: “This short film is all about helping to show the journey of families through the unit. It is a frightening time for families and we hope it will help to explain the support that is available to try and help them through this difficult time in their lives.”
To see the full film visit Tiny Lives