Rotherham’s tiniest hospital patients have inspired the Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity’s new Tiny Toes appeal to fund a £150,000 redevelopment of the neonatal unit.

The existing unit and its compassionate staff are highly praised by families, but the facilities require upgrading to ensure their excellent standard of care can continue for generations to come.

Alison Cowie, Head of Nursing for Children’s Services at The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, said: “In 2022 we looked after more than 400 newborns on our neonatal unit and although we are incredibly proud of the care we provide, the old unit is dated and the layout needs redeveloping to make the best use of the space we have.

“Parents tell us that having a premature baby is a huge shock. They excitedly plan and hope for the birth of their healthy baby but unfortunately, it is not always the case. They can feel a sense of loss for the pregnancy they hoped for and the experience of taking their baby home straight after delivery.

“Our families are often faced with weeks of additional care on the neonatal unit, which is tiring, stressful and an emotional time for them as we nurse their fragile babies in preparation for them going home.

tiny toes fundraiser

“We want to provide a new home for these much-loved babies and their parents to allow them the time and support they need to care for their baby alongside the medical and nursing teams. A new neonatal unit will help us provide specialist care for the tiniest and most vulnerable members of our community.

“We also want our staff to feel proud of the environment they work in, especially when they spend more than 12 hours a day caring for babies on the unit.”

Care on the unit focuses on allowing babies to continue to develop while monitoring and supporting them with issues usually associated with their breathing, feeding and muscle development. Devastatingly, some babies receive end of life care.

The unit, which was built some 40 years ago, currently cares for an average of 14 babies at a time, but there will be space for 16 babies once the unit is reconfigured.

The Tiny Toes appeal will fund a complete overhaul of the existing family rooms, including repainting and soft furnishings, new furniture, modern showers and kitchen facilities.

It will fund recliner chairs so parents can sleep beside their baby’s cot, a ‘wobble room’ for parents and staff who need time away from the ward, resources for siblings and keepsakes for parents.

In 2022, Jessica Kendall spent five weeks on the unit with her babies Frankie and Lottie when the twins were born prematurely.

She said: “We knew Frankie and Lottie would be born early, but we weren’t prepared for how early they did arrive. Rotherham was the closest unit with two cots available and they needed help with their feeding and breathing. Lottie weighed just 2lb 10 and Frankie was 3lb 6.

“The care we received was exemplary and I felt the staff really knew the babies individual personalities. I spent a lot of time in the breakout room. Watching Bargain Hunt always reminds me of my time on the ward!

“It was heart-wrenching leaving them to go home and look after their big brother Freddie, so I think parents will value a space that feels homely and comforting for their little ones.”

The charity is encouraging the public to support the campaign, launched during the NHS’ 75th anniversary year, by hosting fundraising events or taking part in sponsored challenges.

Fundraisers can already take part in exciting charity events, such as a Charity Golf Day at Rotherham Golf Club on 21 September, the Run for All Sheffield 10K on 24 September, a Christmas wreath making workshop at Dunelm’s Pausa café, Rotherham on 21 November and a Polar Plunge with The Breath Connection at Manvers Lake on 25 November.

Rachael Dawes, Head of Fundraising, added: “Our Tiny Toes appeal is really heartfelt for us because we know that every penny raised will make a massive difference to the most vulnerable patients we care for and their parents.

“Raising £150,000 is ambitious but with the public’s support we know we can do it. Together, we hope to create a brighter future for premature and poorly babies.

“If your baby spent the first chapter of their lives with us, if you were born on the unit yourself, or even if you’re expecting your little one in the future, we’d love you to support us by fundraising. We have lots of exciting events in the pipeline to inspire you – watch this space!”

Donations to the Tiny Toes appeal can be made in person at the Charity Hub in the main entrance at Rotherham Hospital, opposite Boots, via cheque or bank transfer or via Just Giving.

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