HSA offers free developmental checks for preemies

| 11/11/2016
CNS Local Life

Jennifer Collins with baby Emma in 2005

(CNS Local Life): In honour of World Prematurity Day, an observance celebrated annually on 17 November, a local mother has decided to show her gratitude to the Health Services Authority’s (HSA) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with a donation for the purchase of new equipment. Jennifer Collins, a director with Carne Group, said each month her office selects a different charity or cause to support. For November, the group chose the NICU due to Collins’ personal experience with the unit.

“World Prematurity Day is a cause near and dear to my heart as I was a preemie mom in the George Town Hospital NICU in 2005. My daughter, Emma, was born at 31 weeks and five days and spent five weeks there,” she said, adding that Emma doesn’t really have any long-term effects that they know about.

In commemoration of the day, the HSA is offering free developmental checks in the physiotherapy unit for all babies born before 34 weeks and who are not yet 18 months old. Developmental delays may sometimes occur after a premature birth; therefore, early intervention is critical to the successful development of a child born prematurely.

HSA paediatric physiotherapist Maggie Tomlin explained the difficulties preterm babies can face. “Babies born prematurely are at a higher risk for developmental delays,” she said, explaining that some of these babies may require one or all of the following services: physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy.

“Early detection and intervention can prevent long-term developmental delays and disabilities,” Tomlin said.

As a newborn, Emma did develop some problems, which she overcame, Collins recalled. “I felt like I was losing my ability to cope but the support of the nurses in the NICU refocused me,” she said. “In many ways I was as much their patient as Emma was.”

Emma was also anemic and narrowly avoided a blood transfusion while waiting for her liver to start working. Collins said that was “terrifying, but in hindsight, we were lucky. My daughter is quite proud to be a preemie and she is the picture of robust healthiness now. I am forever grateful for the care we received”.

CNS Local Life

Jennifer and Emma today

She and the Carne Group plan to donate funds to purchase either a flow meter or a medication pump for the NICU.

World Prematurity Day focuses on raising awareness for preterm babies – the largest child patient group – and their families. One in 10 babies worldwide is born prematurely – defined as before 37 weeks.

Describing her experience of providing care for preterm babies, NICU nurse Kerry Bennett said, “To work as a neonatal nurse is such a privilege; only by working so closely with those amazing little babies do you realise how strong and resilient these often fragile little people can be. The job brings great responsibility and this is not only responsibility towards the baby, but also the entire family.”

She added that each family copes in a different way to what is usually an unexpected event, with some seeking all the information they can and others just needing “a hug and reassurance that the baby is doing okay. Each tiny baby and each family are equally unique”.

Appointments for the developmental check can be booked by emailing Maggie Tomlin. Due to limited space, the HSA recommends people book early.

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Category: Medical and Health

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