World Prematurity Day event celebrates hospital’s youngest patients

Student midwife Humaairah Jama, midwife Phoebe Langer and mum Leanne Ryder with Karl Armsterong, age one

Student midwife Humaairah Jama, midwife Phoebe Langer and mum Leanne Ryder with Karl Armsterong, age one - Credit: Archant

With around a tenth of all babies born in Newham University Hospital passing through the neonatal ward, things can often be very challenging for the staff.

Aisha Dasilva with her sister Asa - Bella, 10 month old

Aisha Dasilva with her sister Asa - Bella, 10 month old - Credit: Archant

But, as the hospital celebrated World Prematurity Day yesterday with a reunion, it can also be very rewarding to see how babies once fighting for their lives have turned into thriving toddlers.

Consultant neonatologist Vimala Gopinathan has been working at the hospital for 18 years, and is responsible for the treatment of the hospital’s youngest patients.

“We say anything under 37 weeks is premature, but the babies in here can be born at anything from 23 or 24 weeks,” she explained.

“They typically stay until they have reached when they would have been full term, but some can stay longer if there are complications.”

One of the cots used to care for premature babies

One of the cots used to care for premature babies - Credit: Archant


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With 24 cots and 4 intensive care beds, those working on the ward are kept busy.

Sometimes they are too busy for parents to feel they can ask questions, which is where a group of volunteers come in.

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Corinne McCrum is the London regional coordinator for Bliss, a charity which supports premature babies and their families.

“We’ve got volunteers in all of the hospitals in Barts Health Trust, which is great,” she said.

Newham University Hospital staff with premature children and their families

Newham University Hospital staff with premature children and their families - Credit: Archant

“They’re not trained medical staff but they’re someone for parents to talk to.”

Corinne explained that many of the volunteers had premature babies themselves, putting them in a position to understand the impact an early birth has on families.

She added: “I’ve been to visit the Portland, which is a private maternity hospital, as part of National Prematurity Day and the important thing is that prematurity doesn’t discriminate.

“It can affect anyone, no matter how rich or poor you are.”

Katarzyna Kolenda with Antony, age 6 months

Katarzyna Kolenda with Antony, age 6 months - Credit: Archant

Clinical facilitator Beautine Wester said that despite the need for advanced technology such as incubators that won’t let the heat out when a parent opens it up to touch their baby, there is one important thing that doesn’t cost any money.

“Breast milk is a natural medicine,” she said.

“Last year we invested in seven breast pumps which we loan out to parents while their child is in the ward so they can express milk for them.

“We’re in quite a poor borough and a lot of families don’t have the money to spend on one.”

Staff have organised fundraising events, including a sponsored walk, to help provide only the very best care for their young patients.

Seeing premature babies thriving months or years later shows that it is all worth it.

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