In honour of World Prematurity Day, an observance celebrated annually on 17 November, a local mother has decided to show her gratitude to the Health Services Authority’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with a donation for the purchase of new equipment.
Jennifer Collins, a director with Carne Group, said each month her office selects a different charity or cause to support. For the month of November, the group selected the NICU due to a notably positive personal experience Ms Collins had with the Unit.
“World Prematurity Day is a cause near and dear to my heart as I was a preemie mom in the George Town Hospital NICU in 2005. My daughter, Emma, was born at 31 weeks and five days and spent five weeks there. She doesn’t really have any long term effects that we know about. However, there was a point after coming off the CPAP system when she had several spells of apnea, which was very overwhelming, but in the end she overcame it and we didn’t need to seek any follow-up therapy. In the moment, I felt like I was losing my ability to cope but the support of the nurses in the NICU refocused me. In many ways I was as much their patient as Emma was,” said Ms Collins.
CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep the airway open and is typically used by people who have breathing problems, such as sleep apnea.
“She was also anaemic and narrowly avoided a blood transfusion while waiting for her liver to start working. In the moment it was terrifying, but in hindsight, we were lucky. My daughter is quite proud to be a preemie and she is the picture of robust healthiness now! I am forever grateful for the care we received,” Ms Collins affirmed.
Ms Collins and the Carne Group plans to donate funds to be used to purchase either a flow meter or a medication pump for the NICU.
World Prematurity Day focuses on raising awareness for preterm babies – the largest child patient group – and their families. One in 10 babies worldwide is born premature – premature birth is the birth of any baby before 37 weeks.
Describing her experience of providing care for preterm babies, NICU Nurse Kerry Bennett stated, “To work as a neonatal nurse is such a privilege; only by working so closely with those amazing little babies do you realise how strong and resilient these often fragile little people can be. The job brings great responsibility and this is not only responsibility towards the baby, but also the entire family. Having a premature baby is for the most part totally unexpected and brings with it anxiety and often a loss of expectation of the birth that had been imagined. Each family copes in a different way; some need a lot of information and want to know all about the technical aspects of the machines that, on occasion, are keeping the baby alive; and others just need a hug and reassurance that the baby is doing okay. Each tiny baby and each family are equally unique.”
To commemorate this special observance, the HSA is offering free developmental checks for all babies born before 34 weeks and who are not yet 18 months old. Developmental delays may sometimes occur after a premature birth; therefore, early intervention is critical to the successful development of a child born premature.
HSA’s Paediatric Physiotherapist Maggie Tomlin remarked, “Each year 15 million babies are born early and the rate is rising. Many babies do not survive, and those that do often have lifelong difficulties. Babies born prematurely are at a higher risk for developmental delays. Whilst some babies do not need special therapies, many require input from one or all of the following services: Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy.
“Physiotherapy helps babies learn gross motor skills and improve muscle tone. Occupational therapy helps with building play and fine motor skills. Speech and Language therapy helps with feeding difficulties and early language skills. Early detection and intervention can prevent long term developmental delays and disabilities,” she further noted.
The free checks will be offered by Ms Tomlin, Occupational Therapist Kiri Archer and Speech and Language Pathologist Faith Gealey at Cayman Islands Hospital’s Physiotherapy Unit on Thursday, 17 November.
Appointments can be booked by emailing Maggie.firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to limited space all interested persons are advised to book their appointments early.
In addition to offering developmental checks, the HSA will be encouraging its staff to show support for raising awareness of premature births by wearing the designated colour, purple, for World Prematurity Day.