Observer festive appeal: We will be with our baby at Christmas

Lorraine Lance and partner Ashley Taylor with their 7 week old son Joshua Lance Taylor''C111855-3 Chi Baby  Photo Louise Adams
Lorraine Lance and partner Ashley Taylor with their 7 week old son Joshua Lance Taylor''C111855-3 Chi Baby Photo Louise Adams

All Lorraine Lance wants for Christmas is to be at home with her family.

Since her son Joshua was born on October 7, she and partner Ashley Taylor have spent weeks at the neo-natal unit in St Richard’s Hospital.

And now Lorraine, who’s been able to stay at her son’s side full-time, thanks to a four-bed room provided for mothers, is hopeful the three can spend Christmas together if Joshua is healthy enough to leave by December 16, his original due date.

The tiny mite, who weighed just 2lb 11oz at birth, was born ten weeks premature after Lorraine began suffering from pre-eclampsia, a medical condition during pregnancy that can be serious for both mother and baby.

The couple, who live in Bersted, had their tot at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham where he spent time in an incubator before he was transferred to a heated hydraulic cot at St Richard’s.

We’ve launched our Observer Christmas appeal to make the lives of parents like Lorraine and Ashley just that little bit easier.

Coping with the birth of a premature baby can place huge pressures on a family, so small comforts like a £1,375 cot which can be raised or lowered really do help.

Our Cots for Tots at Christmas campaign got off to a flying start last week, and now we’re asking readers to dig deep in support of this great cause.

Each year hundreds of premature tots arrive at the unit 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.

The unit provides special care for up to 12 babies born at more than 30 weeks gestation – between April 2010 and March 2011, its staff cared for 304 premature babies.

Currently it has just four hydraulic cots, as the NHS only funds standard cots and incubators. Cash must be raised for the electronically-operated models which can be adjusted according to the height of the parents, doctor or nurse.

So we’re hoping to raise as much as we possibly can throughout December to help make the lives of parents and staff more comfortable.

“The hydraulic cots are quite neat and easy to move around, so I can take Joshua to a quiet corner for breastfeeding,” she said. “Being able to lift it higher or lower to get closer to him is really good.”

And Lorraine is certain the unit’s positive influence will rub off on her son, who now tips the scales at 4lb 9oz at seven weeks old.

“He will probably grow up very sociable, being around so many people!” she said. “The staff have been very helpful, but I can’t wait to be able to go home. I was in hospital from September and then visiting him in the neo-natal unit until a few days ago.

“Having to leave him at night was awful; you are constantly worrying, even though you know he is being looked after properly.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We’re calling for schools, churches, businesses and community groups to get involved in our special Cots for Tots at Christmas campaign. We have teamed up with the Friends of Chichester Hospitals and hope to raise thousands of pounds for the neo-natal unit.

* 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. Staff there are also keen to receive pushchairs or swingchairs, with washable covers. Please bring any items in to 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.

* Raise some funds

Why not host a tea party, coffee morning or a curry night, invite family and friends, and ask for a donation? Take cakes into work and hold a get-together in the morning to raise funds, or even hire the village hall for an evening event?

Or you can make space for your Christmas goodies by holding a table sale or bring-and-buy in aid of the Cots for Tots at Christmas appeal... Maybe get that grey matter working at a quiz night, or hold a raffle at your work to help boost the coffeers.

If you need any help or further donations, call Ellie Evans at the Chichester Observer on 01243 534121.