Supporting moms and babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

35 - Emma SasaruA few years ago I could not set foot inside a hospital. I suffered a traumatic birth with my daughter due to severe pre-eclampsia. To save my life and my baby I was induced six weeks early. My baby was taken from me straight away to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and I went into the operating theatre where doctors fought to save my life. After weeks in NICU, and still trying to get physically well, I was left struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and perinatal anxiety. I struggled to access any help and found that there was very little information or support for women who had been through experiences like mine.

I desperately wanted to help others who had also suffered trauma and so I trained as a breastfeeding peer support worker with the amazing Breastfeeding Network. I am now privileged do this in a role for the NHS. At first my role was mostly community based, but then later the role evolved to include my local hospital. For me this was a massive deal, as it meant going to the same hospital and working on the same wards where I had nearly died. I had to overcome major anxiety, and panic attacks and really battle to do my job but wow, it has been so worth it! I also trained as a doula, a birth companion. I learnt so much about birth and how to make it a wonderful positive experience for women and this drove me to want to do more to improve care for women giving birth.

This brings me to NHS Change Day. For me NHS Change Day represents what I truly believe: that we can all make a change, no matter how small. When joined together with all the other small changes others make it can lead to better care for patients and better working for staff. I personally cannot facilitate large scale change but I can make small changes that have an impact on those that matter most, those that I care for.

Part of my role in the hospital is supporting moms and babies in NICU. I know what it is like to spend many hours, days, weeks and even months in NICU. It can often be a place that is very clinical and scary and so I decided I would try to see if I could change this and make it more of a place of hope. So I approached my manager and infant feeding specialist midwife and told them my idea to make NICU a place that was welcoming and comfortable. My idea was to decorate the wards to help everyone including the staff feel bright and cheerful in what can often be a very stressful place.

We approached the staff on NICU with the idea and various themes, and they thought it was a wonderful idea. So after discussions with infection control we are due to start transforming our NICU soon into a tropical jungle, full of lions, trees and wild animals. We will be fundraising to pay for the items we need but it will be worth it to improve the unit for our mothers and babies.

My actions for NHS Change Day this year are to continue working to improve care for women after birth, raise awareness of perinatal mental health, particularly PTSD, and continue to support babies and their families especially in NICU. Also to continue to improve the NHS service that I am part of that provides very much needed breastfeeding support, this year targeting vulnerable families.

Small ideas can start out as seeming impossible, but if we dare to dream, believe in ourselves, work together as teams and put patients’ needs first anything is possible. That is what NHS Change Day is all about.
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