How I’m helping to keep babies and parents together – Susanna’s story

Susanna Thomas 4 Rs

After experiencing the heartbreak of being separated from her daughter in neonatal care, Susanna was inspired to take action.

My daughter Amy was born at 34 weeks at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent. As soon as she was born she was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit and instead of being able to spend those first few precious hours with her, my husband and I were without our baby.

We entered a world that was completely unknown to us and which was totally overwhelming. Amy spent her first week in the neonatal intensive care unit before being moved to the special care unit for a further three weeks.

Susanna Thomas 1 No Details

Once I had been discharged from hospital four days after Amy’s birth, there was nowhere for me to stay at the hospital. There were just two bedrooms on the unit that were used for ‘rooming in’. We had to go home every night, leaving our baby with strangers.

We couldn’t have asked for a better team of doctors and nurses to look after her, and I knew she was where she needed to be, but even so, leaving her every night was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It caused me a physical pain that I will never forget. If someone had told me I could leave my right arm there instead of my daughter, I think I would have done it!

This is why the Bliss campaign for more parents to be able to stay with their babies in hospital really struck a chord with me.

With Bliss’ support, I wrote to our local MP about the facilities at Ashford and a few week later I got a phone call inviting me in to discuss how parent facilities could be improved.

Accommodation was the major issue for me but we also discussed parking charges for parents with babies on the unit long term (this has now been dramatically reduced).

After several meetings and negotiations we secured a two bedroom apartment on site at the hospital. This has been completely refurbished and kitted out by the hospital charity and kind donations from local businesses. Last April I ran the Brighton marathon and raised almost £2,300 which will go towards the project.

Susanna Thomas 5

We are still a way off all parents being able to stay with their babies, but this is a huge and positive step in the right direction. The opening of the apartment took place on 17 July 2018, and I was absolutely delighted that the hospital asked me to officially open it.

On a personal level, being involved in a campaign and project like this has been really cathartic. It has given our experience of neonatal care a purpose, and I fully intend to continue to work with my unit on future projects, and with Bliss on important campaigns like this one.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, you can view our online support pages.