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Inside Neonatal Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

The Sick Children’s Trust is joining leading children’s charities to raise awareness of all those affected by premature or traumatic births. They’re backing the campaign that will highlight the need for appropriate and timely support to reduce the immediate and long-term impact on mental health and emotional well-being for families and the people who work with them.

Neonatal Mental Health Awareness Week takes place 15-21 April. During this time, families and people from all over the country, will share their experience and memories of life on neonatal intensive care units across the country. The week has been established by new charity, Leo’s, set up by Lottie King, in memory of her late son.

Organisations involved in Neonatal Mental Health Awareness Week will provide support to anyone affected by mental health illnesses, pregnancy loss and the death of a baby. Together, with health professionals and services, they are committed to raise more awareness of mental health and the neonatal journey and unite for better care across the country.

One of these organisations is The Sick Children’s Trust, a national charity that supports families in free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation when they have a seriously ill child in the country’s leading paediatric hospitals. A number of the families supported by the charity have critically ill babies that require specialist care miles away from home. By giving them free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation just minutes from their baby the charity enables families to spend as much time as possible with their loved one, whilst, at the same time, offering practical and emotional support and easing financial burdens. One such family is Lottie King’s.

Lottie King, 30, founder of Leo’s who have organised Neonatal Mental Health Awareness Week, was terrified when she went into labour just 24 weeks into her pregnancy and Leo arrived on 19 January 2015. He was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at University Hospital of North Tees, but was too sick to survive. With Lottie unable to leave her hospital bed for fear she would deliver the second baby, she made the heart-breaking decision to turn off Leo’s life support machine and said goodbye to her son. Leo’s brother, Oska, arrived four days later and, although he too was seriously ill, the doctors were able to successfully intubate the baby and transferred him to NICU, where he spent the next four months of his life growing stronger.

It wasn’t until the following winter that Oska’s health began to deteriorate and Lottie took him into hospital with breathing difficulties. Once there, Oska’s condition worsened rapidly and he required an emergency transfer to a specialist paediatric hospital, Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle upon Tyne. On arrival, and with Oska being treated on the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), Lottie was told about Crawford House run by The Sick Children’s Trust and offered a room, totally free of charge.

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