December 1 is a special day at the Observer as we launch our Christmas appeal.
Everyone needs a helping hand during the festive season, especially the parents of those children who are fighting for life.
That’s why we are working to help the neo-natal unit at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, where each year hundreds of premature tots arrive to be kept warm, treated and cared for as they grow slowly, pound by pound, until they’re big and healthy enough to head home.
Parents of babies which arrive too early can spend months at the unit, crouched over their tiny tot in a heated cot. Whether they’re feeding, changing a nappy, or just touching their babies, each mum and dad will be at that cotside for hours.
With all the worry that having a premature baby can bring, any small comfort can be a blessing.
So we want to raise thousands of pounds this Christmas to make their lives a little easier, by providing special hydraulic cots which can be raised or lowered to give both parents and staff easier access to their baby.
Each cot costs £1,375 and we are hoping Observer readers will give generously to give parents a more comfortable Christmas.
We have teamed up with the Friends of Chichester Hospitals for our Cots for Tots campaign, which will run throughout December, and we want to raise as much as we possibly can.
Currently the unit, which cared for 304 premature babies between April 2010 and March 2011, has only four hydraulic cots.
The NHS funds standard cots and incubators, but funds have to be raised for the electronically-operated models which can be adjusted according to the height of the parents, doctor or nurse.
Christine Finnie, whose son Archie was born in June nine weeks early weighing just 4lbs 3oz, said the adjustable cot was invaluable.
“I spent from morning until night sitting beside Archie’s cot, and it is so much easier to lower the cot than just peering over the edge,” she said. “It means you can hold hands or change them much more easily.”
Kari Elliott, a nursery nurse at St Richard’s, said not only do they make life much more comfortable for parents, they are also really useful for staff.
“With the constant moving and turning and twisting, when it comes to looking after ourselves they are absolutely vital,” she said.
“We have all sizes of nurses and doctors here, so the cots are going up and down all the time; when you are tube-feeding a baby, if you are bending over the cot you are just totally in the wrong position.
“And of course they are also valuable in having happier parents, which is what we want.”
So give generously this Christmas to help make the lives of parents spending a stressful festive season at the cotside of their tiny baby a little easier...
HOW YOU CAN HELP -
* Bring us a card
You can tape a £1 or £2 coin to a Christmas card and drop it off at our Observer offices in Chichester and Bognor Regis. We’ve got festive postboxes all set up ready to receive cash donations at both receptions.
Just take your card, with any donation inside, along to either our Chichester office at Unicorn House, Eastgate Square, Chichester, PO10 1JN, or our Bognor office at 1-2 Place St Maur Des Fosses, Belmont Street, Bognor Regis PO21 1BJ.
* Send us a cheque
We’ve teamed up with the Friends of Chichester Hospitals to help boost our campaign. If you’d like to send us a cheque for any amount, no matter how small, please make it out to Friends of Chichester Hospitals - Observer Appeal and write your name, address and phone number on the back. But don’t worry, all personal details will be destroyed after the appeal is over.
Send your cheques to: Cots for Tots at Christmas, Chichester Observer, Unicorn House, Eastgate Square, Chichester, PO10 1JN.
* Donate an item
Teeny clothes for premature babies aren’t easy to find, so the unit is always grateful for any donations, whether it’s a hand-knitted pair of booties or an extra-small babygro - or even a pushchair (with a washable cover). You can bring items in to either our Chichester office at Unicorn House, Eastgate Square, Chichester, PO10 1JN, or our Bognor office at 1-2 Place St Maur Des Fosses, Belmont Street, Bognor Regis PO21 1JN.