Couple raise over £25,000 for bereavement suite

Louise Gray was 35 weeks pregnant when her baby son Henry was stillborn in May 2022.

Just days beforehand, the expectant mum had attended a routine checkup with her midwife, Fiona O’Kane, in Magherafelt. As she lay on the bed in Thompson House at the Mid Ulster Hospital site, the experienced midwife struggled to find a heartbeat using a doppler.

Ballinascreen couple raise more than £25,000 for bereavement suite

The Ballinascreen woman was then swiftly taken to the antenatal clinic in the main hospital building where she was scanned by five different medical professionals.

Louise’s husband Harry made a frantic dash to the hospital however, after an anxious wait of almost three hours, the couple received the heartbreaking news that their baby had died.

For Louise, her ordeal was made worse by the fact that she was expected to give birth on the same ward as other expectant mothers.

“That Saturday, the 21st of May, I really feared having to go into that delivery suite. That’s where I went to have Olivia and other women were there having babies From being down on the Thursday night to get the medication and hearing babies crying then, I was thinking to myself how am I supposed to go down here and do this?” she said.

“Whenever we went down on the Saturday, we had to walk through the whole delivery suite in Antrim Area Hospital, which meant walking past an induction bay and four or five delivery suite rooms to the room where I had to give birth. We were also directly opposite the double doors where women would go in for a section,” she said.

“When people see you in the delivery suite they are looking at you and automatically assuming you’re in the same boat as them and they ask ‘when’s your baby due?’ or ‘how far along are you?’ That’s the kind of questions we were faced with. We went down on the Saturday afternoon and Henry was born early on the Monday morning. People were looking at you and nodding at your bump and saying things like ‘you’re in the same position as ourselves’. Some people you just nodded to and said ‘yes, that’s right’ but sometimes the frustration and the anger got that much that you had to just say ‘no, it’s not the same’.

With no explanation as to what happened to their baby son, who they named Henry, Louise said midwives told her ‘it was just one of those things’.

Despite being plunged into grief, Louise and Harry felt that they needed to do something to make sure no other parents have to go through the same ordeal as them.

“About four or five weeks after Henry died we contacted one of our local MLAs, Emma Sheerin, and she proceeded to write letters on our behalf to Robin Swann. I know from talking to the midwives in Antrim Hospital that they have had a battle on their hands for years, upon years to get this bereavement suite granted in some way. I know it has constantly been brought to the board and rejected for years. At the end of June, we found out that Robin Swann had given in, for whatever any number of reasons. We believe Emma’s letters were obviously a factor but I know this dispute has been ongoing for years.”

The bereavement suite, which is set to be constructed from an existing part of Antrim Area Hospital and is expected to open in March 2023, will provide a separate, private space away from any other expectant mothers, according to Louise.

The couple also set about organising a fundraiser for the new suite, setting a target of £3,000 to purchase a CuddleCot, an ‘invaluable’ piece of equipment, which Louise said allowed them to bring baby Henry home.

“There were only two CuddleCots in Antrim Hospital when Henry was born so an important factor for us was to raise enough money to purchase a cot because if it hadn’t been for it we never would have got Henry home,” said Louise.

“For us, that piece of equipment was invaluable because it just meant so much to get him home for the night. He met his aunts and uncles and his grandparents. Everybody wanted to see him because he was absolutely perfect.”

The couple’s fundraiser soon ‘spiralled’ and in no time they exceeded their original target. By the time their fundraising night of music and an auction in The Market Inn, Draperstown came around on November 25, they had already raised £14,000.

“We want to allocate the money to services that we think are best appropriate for the bereavement suite. We had nothing like that but I feel like the money we have raised will go towards making things a bit more comfortable so that if you are going through it and you don’t want to leave that room for five days, you don’t have to. You will have everything there to make you feel comfortable,” said Louise.

“We talked about things like an Amazon Alexa for mood music, and things like diffusers. I have also discussed setting aside a sum of money for an in-house counselling service – someone to talk to other than each other. When Harry and I were going through it, we were absolutely heartbroken and devastated and we tried to comfort each other but we didn’t really know what to say to each other to really help. Tensions are so high, you are so emotional and in disbelief. Even now months down the line, I think I would have benefited if I had someone to talk to. The mental health implications of the actual situation we were in were bad enough without having no further support from an actual professional.

Donations towards the bereavement suite can still be made here

Read the full article here

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