Portsmouth neonatal unit is grateful for equipment

The Ickle Pickle charity have donated lots of neonatal equipment to the QA Hospital. Pictured are parents of children who benefited from the equipment when they were babies. L-R Reggie Seymour 2, Matt Seymour 40, Caleb Vulinovic 2, Callie Vulinovic 25, River Vulinovic 2, Lorrraine Blackburn of the charity, Dr Charlotte Groves, Kelly Runalls 34, Neive Runalls 2, Mollie-Rose Batten 2, Carla Batten 35, Reggie Batten 2. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (132681-7)
The Ickle Pickle charity have donated lots of neonatal equipment to the QA Hospital. Pictured are parents of children who benefited from the equipment when they were babies. L-R Reggie Seymour 2, Matt Seymour 40, Caleb Vulinovic 2, Callie Vulinovic 25, River Vulinovic 2, Lorrraine Blackburn of the charity, Dr Charlotte Groves, Kelly Runalls 34, Neive Runalls 2, Mollie-Rose Batten 2, Carla Batten 35, Reggie Batten 2. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (132681-7)

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Not much bigger than an adult hand, some of the tiniest babies arrive at the Queen Alexandra Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit

The Nicu helps premature and bigger babies in their vital first few days of coming into the world.

Based in the hospital in Cosham, the ward helps around 550 babies and their families each year – making it one of the biggest in the country.

As well as caring and dedicated staff, equipment is needed to keep babies warm, cool them down and help feed them.

Today, staff and parents say thank you to Lorraine Blackburn, who has raised thousands of pounds, in order to buy equipment.

The latest addition includes 26 phototherapy lights, two breast milk pumps, and a brain monitor.

Mum Carla Gillard, 35, of St Helens Road, in Gosport, went into labour early with her twins Mollie-Rose Batten and Reggie Batten, now aged two.

She has experienced the remarkable work carried out in the Nicu.

She says: ‘My eldest son Archie, who is six, had a normal birth and was actually born on his due date.

‘With the twins I thought it had been a normal pregnancy, until about 26 weeks, when I went into labour.

‘I was taken to QA and given drugs to slow the labour down, and try and stop it.

‘I held on for five days, but then I had to give birth.’

Mollie-Rose was born weighing 1lb 12oz and Reggie was 2lb 1oz.

They were tiny compared to Archie, who was born weighing 7lb 1oz.

‘I felt I was in good hands in the Nicu,’ says accountant Carla.

‘The labour scared me, but once the twins arrived I felt we were all safe.

‘They stayed on the ward for nine weeks, where they were on ventilators and in incubators.

‘Without the care given by the staff, we wouldn’t be here.

‘Apart from being small, the twins are doing fine, and that’s down to the fabulous care we had.

‘It’s amazing that Lorraine has raised so much money and helped buy all this equipment.

‘It all helps the staff and families in the unit.’

And this has been echoed by mum-of-two Callie Vulinovic.

The 25-year-old of Lime Grove, Paulsgrove, is mum to twins River and Caleb, who are now aged two.

Callie went into labour at just 23 weeks.

A week later, surgeons delivered River, weighing 1lb 5oz, and Caleb, weighing 1lb 6oz, via a C-section.

Callie says: ‘I woke up not knowing if the babies had survived.

‘When I saw them, I couldn’t believe how small they were.

‘For the first 24 hours they were in critical care.

‘I found it really hard to bond with them.

‘I couldn’t touch them or get involved, because I was scared I was going to lose them.

‘Nothing could’ve prepared me for what it was going to be like.

‘It was my husband who was doing all the things for them, like washing them and changing them.’

After his birth, River has suffered from many medical problems, but is slowly on the road to recovery.

‘As they got stronger and bigger, I started to develop a bond with them,’ adds Callie.

‘It was a surreal time, and at times it can be now.

‘I got so much support from staff in the Nicu.’

Caleb stayed in hospital for 13 weeks, and River for 17 weeks.

She says: ‘The staff are amazing, They helped me cuddle my children and get used to them.

‘And another part of why they survived is because of the equipment the ward has.

‘Lorraine is amazing and it’s phenomenal what she has achieved.

‘She has a heart of gold, and does anything for these children, and puts in so much for the ward.’

The Nicu in QA is classed as a level three – the highest level – type of intensive care unit and helps babies from as far as Dorchester and the Isle of Wight.

Ward sister Diane Urquhart says: ‘Babies get transferred here from birth.

‘Often they are babies born from 23 weeks, so can be very small – some weighing only 1lb 5oz.

‘Every day we have specialist teams that go in to help the babies and their families.

‘And that’s important to us, we don’t just look after the baby, but we look after the whole family.

‘We help the babies with their breathing, keeping them warm, or giving parents lots of support with their baby.

‘Often parents are unsure around really small babies, but we’re here to help them out.’

Diane also thanks Lorraine for her fundraising.

She adds: ‘The more equipment we have, the more babies we can help.

‘Lorraine’s fundraising is phenomenal and is an incredible help.

‘We can’t say thank you enough for the items that we have.

‘It all helps parents and their children, and we are very grateful.’

Lorraine Blackburn will always be grateful to the neonatal intensive care unit for giving her three months with her beautiful baby boy Owen.

She has dedicated herself to raising money for the same unit in Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, that helped her first-born baby.

Owen was the first child to be born at QA’s then new neonatal intensive care unit in June 2009 at just 26 weeks old.

Little Owen weighed just 1lb 10oz and had been making steady progress after being diagnosed with a heart problem.

He was transferred to two Southampton hospitals, to be treated for an eye disease and artery problems.

But sadly he died in September 2009.

Lorraine, 30, is grateful to QA for giving her and her husband three precious months with their son.

Since then she has become an ambassador for the national Ickle Pickles charity, which raises money for neonatal units.

In three-and-a-half years, around £106,000 has been raised.

Lorraine, of Gordon Road, Waterlooville, said: ‘It’s because of everyone who takes part in the fundraising that the figure has been achieved.

‘When we had Owen, our time with him was very touch and go.

‘If I can help other parents that were in the same position as me, then I am very happy.

‘It’s great to see parents take home their babies.’

Over the years, the family has donated money from a range of events, with the main one being an annual charity walk.

Money raised has been used to buy a range of items, such as muslin squares, nappies, bedsheets, and a TV.

To speak to Lorraine, call 07977 480216, or email lorraine@icklepickles.org