My son and nephew spent time on a neonatal unit; now I work there – Jasmine’s story

Jasmine describes how her positive experience on the Special Care Baby Unit inspired her to become a nurse on the unit where her son had been a patient.

Before I started working on the Special Care Baby Unit at St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight, I was an adult coronary care nurse, who had no clue what went on inside a neonatal unit. That all changed when I fell pregnant with twins in 2016.

Because of pregnancy complications and likely prematurity, I was told throughout my pregnancy that my babies may end up needing to go to the neonatal unit. And when, after a scan at 26 weeks, I was put on bed rest due to the risk of premature labour, I was given a tour of the unit. The atmosphere was friendly and homely, but clean, busy and professional all at once. It was a whole different world, tucked in a little corner of the hospital that I, like many others, never even knew existed.

In January 2017, after ten weeks of bed rest, my twins were born by elective c-section at 36 weeks' gestation. My son was admitted to the neonatal unit with respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis. I was heartbroken, scared and exhausted, but the support we received from the nurses on the unit was exceptional.

He spent five days on the unit in a high dependency cot before being reunited with his twin sister. I often thought about what a wonderful job our nurses had done as I settled into life as a new mum of two tiny babies.

Then, in April 2018, my sister and her husband announced that they were expecting a much longed-for baby. Our family were ecstatic and couldn’t wait for October when this little miracle was due. But he would be with us much earlier than expected.

On the evening of July 17th, after having a small bleed, my sister arrived at the maternity unit to be checked over. Of course, we were all worried, but what we were about to find out was devastating. Despite the fact she was only 25 weeks pregnant, my sister was going into labour.

Her son Archer was born in the early hours of July 18th, weighing 950g. A wonderful neonatal nurse and paediatrician from the SCBU attended his delivery, and he was stabilised and prepared for transfer from the Isle of Wight to the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, where he would begin his 16 week long neonatal journey.

During this time, I watched the neonatal nurses give my nephew the best chance of survival, and help him to grow and thrive. They performed miracles every single day for Archer, but what resonated with me the most was the support that they gave to my sister and her husband at the most difficult time of their lives. The nurses held their hands through every piece of bad news, hugged them through the saddest of times, celebrated every milestone with them, and gave them every opportunity to feed, care for and love their baby, despite his fragility.

At this point I had been a coronary care nurse for five years, and in all my career I had never witnessed nursing on such a personal, holistic and life-changing level. I wanted to be able to support families in the way that my sister and her family had been, and to have a job where I felt like I could make a difference to a whole family.

So when a job advert came up the following spring for a nurse on the SCBU where my son spent his first five days, and where Archer began and finished his neonatal journey, I jumped at the chance. I started work there on April 1st 2019, and it’s a job which I absolutely adore.

The SCBU on the Isle of Wight is a level 1 unit, which serves the entire population of the Isle of Wight. Our unit is small with six cots, but this allows us to work extremely closely with the babies and families that we care for.

Due to our location on an island, we also provide some of the support you would expect from a level 2 unit including stabilisation care for babies who are born before 32 weeks, or require more invasive ventilation support, until they can be transferred.

This type of nursing is intense, and can be very scary for parents due to the unfamiliar medical equipment, the large numbers of healthcare professionals looking after their baby, and the fact they know their baby is going to be moved to another hospital. However this type of care is vital for babies like Archer who are not able to be transferred to a level 3 unit in utero.

To parents in this situation, I would advise them not to be afraid to ask questions; the nursing staff would much rather know you had all the information you want or need than to think you were worrying silently.

What I love most about the job is supporting parents to become hands-on with their babies by helping them to overcome their fears of handling a small or unwell baby, and helping them to feel confident to take their baby home. Because, from my experience and that of my sister, it is firmly ingrained in my mind that whilst our initial thoughts are with the small or poorly baby who we’re taking care of, there are also parents who may be falling apart behind the scenes that need just as much support as their little ones. I love having the chance to give them some of that support which our nurses gave me and my sister.

WaterWipes’ Pure Foundation Fund

Our research with neonatal healthcare professionals shows that their mental health is impacted by their work. That’s why we’re supporting WaterWipes’ Pure Foundation Fund, a new bursary scheme for healthcare professionals involved in maternity, neonatal and postnatal care. The winner will receive £2,500 for use in their department, and to further support care for parents and babies.
Click here to nominate your amazing healthcare professional