The parents of twins born three months early have set up a charity to help support other families who have babies in neonatal care at the University Hospital of North Tees.
Kirsty Lowther, 26 and husband Shaun 39, from Trimdon, County Durham, have set up Neoangels to help parents with babies who are being cared for on the neonatal unit for long periods of time, after their twins Noah, who weighed 2lb 3oz and Ava 1lb 13oz were born premature.
The fund will help parents manage expenses such as travel, car parking and meals at the hospital, while Kirsty also hopes that the charity will build a support network for others who are going through a similar situation.
Kirsty, who works as a funeral director for Co-op Funeral Care in Stockton said: “When I found out I was pregnant, I was convinced I was having twins – I always said I would have twins. I made the decision to go to the University Hospital of North Tees.
“We were at the hospital at lot more because we were having twins. When I went for my scan the sonographer was lovely. Everything was fine at the 20 week scan. I had a really good experience.
“The week before New Year I was feeling really tired, and then on 6 January, I gave birth to Ava and Noah. They were both ventilated as soon as they were born. I saw them four hours later.
“It was the scariest thing that me and my husband have ever had to go through.
“The maternity unit were out of this world I was looked after by two midwives one which was a student – they were amazing. I was very set on having no pain relief and they respected my wishes and supported me and my husband.
“The team told us everything. They always made sure we knew what was going on and what would happen next. Every person that we came into contact with was sensitive, professional and caring and I if I was to fall pregnant again I wouldn’t go anywhere else to give birth.
“I went home after two days. You never expect to go home without your baby.
“Our twins were on the neonatal unit for a total of 76 days for intensive care, high dependency, special care and transitional care.
“I was with the twins all day every day. Everyone was absolutely fantastic and really supportive. The staff on the neonatal unit remember you. They weren’t just doctors and nurses. They became our friends. It became like a home from home. They really care and look after you.
“I was always told what was happening to Noah and Ava. They would explain everything to make sure I understood and if we didn’t understand they would explain it to us in a way we did.
“The neonatal unit were out this world just when we thought our care couldn’t get any better this amazing ward saved our babies, helped us through the hardest time of our lives and supported us.
“From the housekeepers to the consultants each and every member of staff on the unit were outstanding.
“Me and my family owe this unit our everything and because of them and what they have done for us we have set up a charity for the unit called Neoangels.
“When we were in the hospital we realised that there was very little financial support for parents with babies who are in hospital for a long period of time, to help with unexpected expenses.
“I started doing some research to start to set a charity up, which in the future will help other families who have been through what we have.
“Not only is it about having financial support, but it is about building up a support network for families to get in touch and be able to provide emotional support for each other.
“We’re starting to make plans for the future of the charity, our live music event sold out within a few hours, we’re planning a Christmas Fayre and a summer ball on 2 July next year at Rockcliffe Hall.
“I would love for local people to get involved to help support others whose babies are being cared for the hospital’s neonatal unit. It is a lovely feeling, knowing that this charity will be helping to support other families.”
Ward matron Debbie Bryan said: “Kirsty and Shaun really are an inspiration. Every donation which is made to the neonatal unit is so valuable. This charity will be a much needed support to parents at what can be a very difficult time.”
You can find out more about neoangels and how you can support the charity at www.neoangelscharity.com