Parents Kristelle and Peter Vicary spent three months in Nepean Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) watching over their firstborn son who was born at 28 weeks.
He is now a healthy five-year-old and the couple felt the need to give back.
After coordinating a fundraising evening, the Emu Heights couple contributed $28,000 to an ultrasound machine, which will save thousands of babies from unnecessary risk of infection.
Before the $125,000 machine was dedicated to the unit, premature babies had to be transported to other areas of the hospital for tests.
“These are your critically ill babies that you really don’t want to be moving anywhere. They are ventilated, they’ve got numerous drugs running to keep them alive, the last thing you want to do is try and pack them up and push them to another area,” said Nurse Unit Manager, Chris Sulfaro.
Premature babies are required to have a heart scan on arrival, a head ultrasound the following day and weekly ultrasounds following that.
In a 36-bed ward like the NICU at Nepean, the machine is used a minimum of 20 times a week.
“We are very fortunate to have this beautiful piece of equipment because it certainly is in high demand,” Ms Sulfaro said.
Mr and Mrs Vicary were told that their son Christian, born at 980g, may not make it through the first few weeks of life and had to prepare for the worst.
“Unless you have actually been through this experience – people think, oh it’s just a premature baby, it’s not that big of a deal – you don’t realise that those first weeks can have an affect on the quality of that baby’s life forever,” Mr Vicary said.
“They gave our son life so you feel like you want to put something back into that.”
Mrs Vicary joined NNICUPS, a support group for parents of premature babies, a couple of years after Christian’s birth, hoping to give back to the staff at the NICU.
“This is not just a job that they do here, they put their heart and soul into it. They give a lot to the parents and go over what is expected,” she said.
“We can’t really ever give back but this is part of what we can do to make this easier for staff here. This is a thank you but it is also making other parents’ journeys less stressful and maybe give them a better outcome for their baby.”