Friday 3 June 2011
First Touch - St Georges Neo Natal Unit
First Touch is the charity attached to the neonatal unit at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south west London. The charity was set up in 1998 as a way for supporters to donate money that they knew would go directly to the neonatal unit and help the babies, families and nurses. St George’s neonatal unit is the level 3 centre for south west London, and we take the sickest and most premature babies from Kingston, Mayday, Epsom and St Helier Hospitals. St George’s is also a surgical centre for babies from the south east of England.
I became involved with the charity initially as a volunteer until I was asked to take over the management of the charity in 2004. My eldest daughter, Isabel, was born 3 months prematurely in 2001. It was a total shock. She was desperately unwell, sustained a grade 4 IVH, the most severe type of infant brain haemorrhage, on her second day, and wasn’t expected to survive the night. Miraculously Izzy did survive. We endured the traditional roller coaster of neonatal ups and downs. She had brain surgery after 2 months. She came home from St George’s after a three and a half month stay at the nnu. My gratitude to the clinical staff at the unit is infinite.
First Touch spends the majority of money from donations on medical equipment, but also funds specialist nurse training and family welfare. Our purchases in 2010-11 include 2 incubators, a ventilator, a cerebral function monitor, specialist cots and heated mattresses, noise monitors, apnoea monitors and laparoscopy equipment. We have funded a £60,000 simulation training programme and nurse post thanks to a very generous donation from the Rbaby Foundation in New York City. Our commitment to training nurses and helping parents continues this year as we embark on a groundbreaking partnership with Bliss to jointly fund a Family Centred Care Practitioner for 3 years. (We have a long standing relationship with Bliss; one of our trustees and I went to meet the Health Minister to back Bliss’s 1-1 campaign for intensive care nurses, and I have taken part both in the Radio 4 documentary ‘A Moment Too Soon’ and a large scale feature on prematurity organised by Bliss and featured in The Daily Telegraph).
I feel truly honoured to work for a charity supporting a cause I feel so passionately about, and for a unit that I owe my daughter’s life to. Our supporters include local businesses and a wide range of parents wanting to ‘give something back’ to the neonatal unit. The most humbling of our supporters are bereaved parents. An amazing family have just handed over a cheque for over £25,000 to fund a ventilator in memory of their precious son. This is the result of three years of dedicated fundraising. We have a policy of putting plaques on equipment funded by donors, and this is particularly important when families have enabled us to purchase something in memory of a baby - it serves as a lasting memorial to the baby’s treasured but short life.
We have only two part-time members of staff, and very few overheads beyond salaries. We ensure that money is spent wisely and benefits our tiny patients.
Our website gives a wider overview of our work, and the work of our fantastic neonatal unit. We have some wonderful patrons, including Sophie Raworth, Ortis Deley, Chris Jarvis and Martine McCutcheon who have actively supported our work. Ortis Deley recently appeared on Celebrity Mastermind with First Touch as his chosen charity, and Sophie Raworth ran The Great North Run for us.
We are small charity with a massive cause - tiny patients! We are grateful to all our supporters, and proud to work to support such an incredible neonatal unit.