Author Archives: Louise Carroll

MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH WEEK: HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR YOUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING

Maternal Mental Health Week (29th April – 5th May) is a week-long campaign dedicated to talking about the issues that new mams face before, during, and after pregnancy; helping people to access the information, care, and support that they need to recover. 

At Tiny Lives we are not just here for the babies that spend time in the neonatal unit, we are also here to support every member of the family as they navigate through their journey. Every family is different, and each neonatal journey is unique, but whatever your circumstance, being on the unit with your child can have a huge impact on your mental health. 

Remember that there is no right way to be feeling, and feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear are completely normal – that’s why we are here with support and guidance during and after your time on Ward 35. 

Key themes for this year’s Maternal Mental Health Week include the demystification of perinatal mental illness, finding your identity, and how we can all be stronger together. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your baby, so we wanted to share some self-care tips from Nicky Robertson so you can take time to focus on your mental health and well-being during and after your time with us: 

1. Take time away from the bedside 

Make sure to get out of the hospital for regular short breaks. Getting some fresh air and sunshine can lift your spirits and ease stress. 

2. Ask for and accept help 

Recognise that you have a lot on your plate and don’t be afraid to ask for help and accept it when it is offered. Family and friends will be looking for ways to support you, and you don’t have to deal with everything on your own. 

3. Talk to someone 

Talking can help you to manage some of the emotions that you are feeling. Open up to a partner, friend, family member, one of the hospital staff, or other parents navigating their own experience. There are also professional resources available to you, you can find all of the details at the end of this article. 

4. Eat well & stay hydrated 

Finding time to grab a bite to eat or to remember to drink water can be difficult when your energy is being directed toward your baby, but it is important to stay healthy and keep your energy levels up so you can be there for your little one. 

5. Get enough sleep 

Sleep might be the last thing on your mind, but your body and mind will be exhausted. Try where you can to take naps during the day and create a new routine so you can get as much sleep as possible a night time. We know it is difficult but it will help you digest all of the new information being given to you and give your mind time to recover from highly stressful environments.  

6. Take a moment to breathe

Find a quiet space, either on the ward or on your own at home, close your eyes, and take some slow deep breaths until you find yourself becoming more peaceful. Take time to recognise and acknowledge how you are feeling in your mind and body before you move on to the next challenge. Even if you have never tried meditation before, a short 5-minute session can be beneficial if you practice regularly. 

7. Do something for you 

There are lots of emotions that can take a toll on your mental health. Taking time to do something familiar that you enjoy will help you switch off or reflect on how you are feeling. Try writing in a journal, reading a book to yourself or out loud to your baby, enjoying your favourite treat, or doing something creative. You can activate your self-soothing system when you need to by stroking your arm, massaging your scalp, or applying moisturiser. 

If you feel like you would benefit from speaking to a professional, there are Clinical Psychologists you can talk to on the Unit. Ask a member of staff or call 0191 282 4081.

Often it isn’t until you get home that you start to reflect on your neonatal hospital stay., Tiny Lives funds a Clinical Psychologist who is there for any parent who may need some support after discharge. Please get in touch with us directly and we can help with this, or feel free to ring the number above. Please do not hesitate to reach out, taking care of yourself is just as important as caring for your baby!

Any parents who have left the hospital can access funded counselling sessions via self-referral to Tiny Lives. Counselling is available to any former Ward 35 parents, no matter how long you have been off the unit and you can attend as individuals or as a couple. For more information and to self-refer, please click here.

CELEBRATING SIBLINGS: HOW TO SUPPORT BROTHERS AND SISTERS ON THE NEONATAL UNIT

This month marks National Siblings Day, and we know that being the older brother or sister of a baby on the neonatal unit can be an overwhelming, confusing, and challenging experience. At Tiny Lives we try our best to make the experience of spending time on Ward 35 as easy as possible for older siblings, but it can be tricky for family and friends to know the best way to support siblings as they navigate the journey.

Here are our top tips…

1.         Clear communication

Open, honest communication is key to helping siblings understand what is happening so they can process it in their way. Encourage brothers and sisters to ask questions and express their feelings and let them know that it is ok to feel scared or sad while reassuring them that their sibling is receiving the best care possible. Tiny Lives Sibling Packs are suitable for children aged 3+ and include a helpful book that might answer some of their questions and ways to help them express how they’re feeling.

2.         Create a routine

Where possible, sticking to a routine can help maintain a sense of normality during this uncertain time and help siblings feel more secure and grounded. Make time for activities that they enjoy and moments just for them.

3.         Offer reassurance

Older siblings might be worrying about the babies health, or the health of mam and dad when they have to spend extended time in hospital. Offer plenty of reassurance that they are loved and cared for, that their feelings are valid and let them know it is ok to ask for help and support when they need it.

4.         Involve them in the process

Depending on their age, involving brothers and sisters in what is happening in the neonatal unit can make the situation less scary and overwhelming. Why not ask them to make a card or a drawing for their new sibling, pick out a special toy to gift or an outfit, or tell them a story?

5.         Share new information

Siblings sometimes have questions about new babies’ condition or treatment and providing age-appropriate information can help them understand what is happening and why their brother or sister can’t come home just yet. Use simple language and be honest about what they can expect so they don’t get a shock when they arrive on the ward.

7.         Encourage emotions

Siblings need to express their emotions during this challenging time. Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling, whether it’s through art, writing, or talking to a trusted adult. Validate their emotions and let them know that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or confused – in fact, it is completely normal!

8.         Celebrate milestones together

Whether it is joining the kilo club, graduating from the neonatal ward, or hitting a health milestone like coming off a ventilator, include siblings in celebrating achievements big and small. Our Parent Packs include milestone cards and acknowledging these moments as a family can bring some much-needed smiles during a tough journey.

Sign up for Tiny Lives Sibling Memory Making Group.

At Tiny Lives we offer informal sibling support groups for siblings who have spent time on the unit, or whose brothers or sisters have sadly died. The groups involve craft activities and are a chance to meet other children who are having or have had a similar experience.

Children of all ages are welcome at our sibling support groups, no matter how long ago their sibling(s) were on the unit. These sessions run three times a year and provide a safe space for siblings to share their experiences, connect with others in similar situations, and receive additional support. You can find out more about our Sibling Memory Making Groups and book your space here

Easter Raffle

Our lovely supporter Sue has kindly made an Easter Hamper for us to raffle, so we can continue our support to the families and babies going through their Neonatal Journey. 

The contents of the hamper are below…

Milky Bar Eggs, Malteser Mini Bunnies, Choc Orange Eggs, Mini Cream Eggs, Smartie Mini Eggs, Choc Buttons, Choc Orange, Choc Mint, and of course an Easter bunny!

If you would like to try your luck and win this lovely hamper while supporting Tiny Lives, please click here, suggested donation of £5 or you can chose your own amount to donate 🙂

Please note that the lucky winner will need to collect the prize from the Tiny Lives office.

Parental Input Needed…

Dr Janet Berrington and her team are looking for parental input for a new study that is looking at reducing breathing problems after discharge in preterm babies. The study has funding from the NHS and is currently being set up. Parent views are essential to help the team plan and deliver the study in the best way for families. They are looking for parents who can join meetings online, and they expect to be able to offer re-imbursement for their time. If you think you can help or would like to know more please contact Dr Janet Berrington at the RVI janet.berrington1@nhs.net

Luke and Paul’s Hike to Hospitals…

 

On Friday 17th September we met one of our kind supporters from Cumbria, Luke Evans along with his partner Natasha, their eldest son Harry.  

They have supported Tiny Lives with a family fun day held in June 2021 raising over £2k and the latest challenge Luke set himself was a 140 mile walk from Whitehaven, Cumbria, along the Hadrian’s Wall route all the way to the RVI all in loving memory of their youngest son Arthur, who passed away on the unit in January 2021.  

But when Luke got to the RVI to meet his family, a member of staff from the unit and Louise from Tiny Lives, his walk was still not complete.  Luke took on the miles with his friend Paul (and Paul’s 2 dogs) Paul took on this challenge to support the Freeman Hospital in respect of his 3-year-old son receiving care from them when born.  After a week of walking, they managed to rest their legs a little at the RVI before finally finishing their 142 miles at the Freeman Hospital, where Paul’s family were waiting to greet them.

Louise said “It was lovely to meet the family face to face, to thank them for all their support to Tiny Lives and the moment little Harry ran towards his dad, it bought tears to my eyes.  We would also like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has support Luke and Natasha with their fundraising for Tiny Lives, helping us with our ongoing support to the families, babies and staff on the unit”. 

Luke has raised £1,700 from his walk – well done!!!

Newcastle Dragon Boat Race 2021!

 

Have you got a workplace that’s competitive? – Are you and your mates competitive? – Or could you take on this challenge with a boat of strangers?

Well, you could be the perfect team/individual, to take part in the Newcastle Dragon Boat Race 2021, which is to take place on Saturday 2nd October along the River Tyne.   Your family and friends can come along a cheer you on too as there’s lots going on for the spectators throughout the day.

Not only would you be taking on this unique boat race, along the Tyne.  You will also be supporting 2 local charities – Tiny Lives and Chuf.

To register or for more information about the day, contact Louise at Tiny Lives or Philip one of the organisers 

vCreate-First-Ever Video Diaries Day!

Today is the FIRST-EVER Video Diaries Day!

vCreate allows for staff to share videos of babies with their parents, helping them to bond even when they can’t physically be together

At Tiny Lives we are so proud to fund the service at the RVI’s Neonatal Unit. Since Nov 1st 2018 to end of August 2021 the unit has helped 371 families, sent 1,123 videos and 2, 651 photos.

We also supply iPads and accessories to the Unit to facilitate this system.

Can you imagine doing the Coast 2 Coast- and then BACK AGAIN?

 

Well, that is exactly what this team of terrific fundraisers are doing. This bank holiday, Paul and his team are setting off on the final leg of their C2C2C. The mammoth challenge will see the team of cyclists ride from Whitehaven to Tynemouth and back.

So far they have incredibly raised over £3,000 in loving memory of Paul’s daughter Thea. Paul said “ We would love to raise as much money for tiny lives as possible in memory of our baby girl and we hope you will donate as much as you can spare.” Just follow the link here to show your support https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/theasthousand

A HUGE thank you and good luck from team Tiny Lives. 

Mad Hatter Charity Ball

An amazing £25,000 raised! 

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How the weeks just fly by…this time last week we were ticking off our checklist in preparation for our Mad Hatter Charity Ball which took place on Saturday 20th October at the Hilton Hotel Newcastle/Gateshead.

Guests were welcomed into the drinks reception through a beautiful floral arch, where they had the honour of meeting our very own Mad Hatter and Queen of Hearts on their thrones.

Our Mad Hatter guided guests through to the main room and once seated the very talented dancers from Tyne Theatre Stage School kicked off the evening with a wonderful performance from Wonderland the musical. Guests then took part in a quirky Eat Me/Drink Me ice breaker with the winner receiving a nice little Gin gift set.

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The night was expertly hosted by Pete Graves of Sky Sports who also took on the role of auctioneer. Our auction raised over £19k with guests getting competitive with bidding and extra auction prizes being donated on the evening – incredible!

Before the auction, guests watched a short film about a family who have been through the neonatal journey, giving guests a very small insight into how families lives are turned completely upside down when they have a baby on the Neonatal Unit, but also showing how much Tiny Lives support means to the families on the unit.

The centrepieces on the night were fantastic and were all individually hand-made with their very own Eat Me/Drink me little trinkets. The hats were later modelled by guests on the dance floor as they donated on the evening to purchase one or more hats.

It was a night to remember, with quirky touches including thrones, grass walk ways, casino tables, balloon bonanza and the one and only Funk Conspiracy who got guests up and dancing within seconds.

Thank you so much to everyone who made the night possible.

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Paige is always thinking of the next fundraiser…

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Mam Tracy holding Paige

Ten years ago, Paige was on the neonatal unit at the RVI after being born at 26 weeks weighing 2lb. Over the years Paige and her family have raised funds for Tiny Lives through various fundraising activities throughout the school holidays and in school by organising a sponsored walk.

On Friday Paige invited us along to Chickflicks Hair and Beauty in West Denton. Where she had 11 inches cut off her long locks which she is donating to The Little Princess Trust, but Paige didn’t stop there as she asked all her family and friends if they would sponsor her with all donations coming to Tiny Lives.

Ever since we met Paige she is always thinking how she can support Tiny Lives and other charities who help people.

Well Done Paige, you are a very brave girl with a big heart!!

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