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The rainy weather did not dampen the spirits or stop the purple army, including George Hospital staff members as well as a few of the “prem” mothers from participating in a Prem Day Walkathon on World Prematurity Day, 17 November 2020. The idea behind the walkathon, 1700 steps taken on the hospital premises is to raise awareness about premature births and how it can be prevented, but also to walk in the shoes of all the little brave fighters around the world that are born fighting for survival.Along the way, participants were tested with questions related to premature births and were rewarded with small treats for every correct answer. The day ended with a lucky draw.

NICU-fighter (4) wants to become a paramedic.

Approximately, one in ten babies around the world spent their first few days, many times, even weeks turning into months fighting for survival in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) as they are born prematurely. On World Prematurity Day, 17 November 2020, we celebrate the lives of these fighting-fit spirits, but more importantly, to raise awareness on how to prevent premature births.

“NICU-fighter”, is the word that comes to mind when Tara Balie, the mother of Quinn (4), thinks back to his 67-days spent in the George Hospital’s NICU. Quinn was born at 27 weeks and five days with a birth weight of 860g. Now all grown-up, he has an amazing fascination with ambulances and at his tender age, already knows that he wants to become a paramedic. When asked where his love for ambulances comes from, this quiet little man almost spurted out, “I want to help people.”

Thinking back to her experience in the NICU as a young mother, Tara recalls her being there by his side the entire time, helped her to get through that difficult time. “It is only in hindsight that I realised how anxious and worried I was. I think being able to spend every day with Quinn in the NICU, holding him and being skin-to-skin was a lifesaver for me,” said Tara.

She added, the fact that she had adequate emotional support provided a source of comfort to her during all the difficult and terrifying moments. “I benefitted from having people around me to hold my hand, give me a hug or offer kind and supportive words when I needed it,” said Tara.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Talking to a nurse that was actively involved in the nursing of Quinn, Senior Nurse Wendy Uithaler said that it was a privilege to take care of little Quinn as it is with every premature baby that they nurse in Ward B3 Neonatal. “It is a challenge as you never know what the final outcome will be, but to see this child running around, climbing, talking and doing everything else is really amazing and it makes it all worth it - all the long hours that we spend nursing these little babies in the warm ICU environment,” said Uithaler.

Mother-to-mother, Tara’s message to new “prem” mothers is to keep the faith throughout their journey and to remember that it is okay to not always be okay but to keep going.

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