Tina Lavelle, Lucy Varley, Rianna Massingham-Beale and Becky Howsin from East Durham College, wheel their trolley onto the neonatal unit at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

A Trolley-Load Of Love For Neonatal Parents

A team of caring teenage students have made a very generous and heart-warming donation to the parents of neonatal babies at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

The 15 students from East Durham College in Peterlee, all aged between 16 and 18, took part in the National Citizen Service several months ago and as part of the programme they are asked to devise a Social Action Plan which they feel will make a difference to people in their community.

When discussing their thoughts, one of the young people, Rianna Massingham-Beale, shared the story about how her family was affected by the early birth of one of her siblings a few years ago. The group discussed what they could do to make a difference and were keen to try and improve the situation for the parents of the premature babies.

They discussed how parents must find it hard to make time for themselves when they are so busy concentrating on the needs of the babies.

The young people contacted the neonatal unit at The James Cook University Hospital and discussed their plans. It emerged that fathers are often the least prepared for a hospital stay and it was decided to make some gift packs for parents, but more so for fathers, along with some food parcels to give to parents staying in the accommodation which the unit offers.

Rianna, 17, said: “From personal experience I know that obviously the premature baby is everyone’s focus while the baby is on the unit, but that means the parents have such little time for themselves.

“So we thought that we’d pull some packs together to enable the parents to ‘freshen up’ without having to travel home to do so.”

The group took part in a number of fundraising activities including an eight-hour bag pack at ASDA in Seaham where donations were collected in buckets at the tills. There was also a tombola running in the store at the same time which featured prizes donated by local business. Finally they completed a 100km sponsored row on rowing machines in the college. All in all they raised £550 which they then used to compile the packs.

The students handed over 15 packs for fathers containing shaving equipment, shower gels, tissues, combs, deodorants, chocolates. There were also ten packs for mothers containing; brushes, hair bobbles, clips, shower gel, shampoo, deodorant, tissues, facial wipes and of course chocolates too.

Laden on the trolley they wheeled onto the ward were also ten food parcels which contained; tea, coffee, hot chocolate, packets of soup, cereal, cereal bars, fruit squash, biscuits and crisps. There was also a photo-frame gift in each of these packs

Rianna’s college friend Lucy Varley, who was also an active member of the project team, added: “We shopped around with the money we raised, but we decided that the photo frame was ideal for the parents to remember when there tiny babies were born.”

Staff on the unit were overwhelmed with the amount of gifts the students had managed to purchase and donate.

Bliss nurse, Sue Thompson said: “We were expecting possibly half a dozen, so to see all this, it’s like Christmas morning all over again. What the girls, and their fellow students, have achieved is absolutely fantastic. To think of the parents at this most vulnerable time for them is just wonderful. So a massive thank you on behalf of the parents, to all the students.”