Taking the extra steps to support premature babies

TWENTY-six weeks and three days into her pregnancy, Marissa Chaffey knew something was wrong.

At first believing that the pangs she was experiencing was ligament pain, the West Moonah mother soon realised it was something much more serious – her twin baby girls were on the way.

Rushed to the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH), she was immediately prepped for an emergency caesarean section and thanks to the hard work of the hospital’s staff, her babies were born safe and transferred straight to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

“The whole experience was very scary and as it was my first pregnancy, it was not something I was expecting or prepared for,” Ms Chaffey said.

“But all the staff at the RHH were fantastic – they talked me through the whole experience and I emerged from the operation safe and only a little bit sore.”

But Ms Chaffey’s troubles were far from over.

Born 14-weeks premature, her twins Miranda and Millicent were not out of woods.

“Miranda had to undergo a PDA Ligation, which meant we had to leave Millicent in the RHH NICU and travel to the Melbourne Children’s Hospital, where we stayed for three weeks following her operation,” Ms Chaffey said.

“Millicent, on the other hand, had been born with Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ‘prem eyes’, and had to undergo laser eye surgery, as her retina was detaching.

“There were just so much uncertainty throughout the whole process and I had to take every day as it came – I always hoped for the best, but knew that the worst could happen.

“To top it all off, I was also suffering from post-natal depression and struggling with my milk supply, so there was just so much to cope with at the very beginning.

“But thankfully, I had great support available through medication and counselling to help manage my depression and anxiety.”

Following a total of 135 days in hospital, Ms Chaffey was finally able to take her new daughters home.

In an effort to show her support for the 48,000 premature and sick babies born in Australia each year, Ms Chaffey decided to participate in the 2017 Walk for Prems event.

Presented by Baby Bunting on Sunday 29 October at the Montrose Forsehore, Walk for Prems is the largest fundraiser by the Life’s Little Treasures Foundation, a charity dedicated to supporting the families of babies born sick and prior to 37 weeks gestation.

Now in its eighth year and having raised more than $500,000 to date, the event took place simultaneously in locations across Australia.

Having personally experienced the struggles of premature delivery, Ms Chaffey said it was so important to raise awareness and funds.

“If you don’t have that support available, then you’d just crumble,” she said.

“A big part of what got me through the whole experience was joining a mothers support group – it was so helpful to talk to women who have been through similar experiences.

“Being a part of that group made me realise that I didn’t have to feel so alone, that premature delivery is actually quite common and that I’m not the only person going through it.

“So, I really wanted to take part in this event to raise awareness of what I’ve been through and what really goes on.

“In particular, I wanted to help raise funds for the purchase of additional jet ventilators, a piece of NICU machinery that was so essential for my girls and is currently only available in Melbourne and Perth.

“If it wasn’t for the hospital staff, machinery and support services currently available, I wouldn’t have my beautiful baby girls with me now.

“Words can’t express how grateful I am.”

Ms Chaffey said her favourite part of the event was catching up with old friends and seeing how much the children had grown.

“The event was very well organised and inviting,” she said.

“We had to finish early due to the wind, but apart from that I enjoyed the walk and will go again next year.”

For more information about the Walk for Prems event, visit www.walkforprems.org.au.

Caption: Marissa Chaffey with her 15-month-old (12-months corrected) twin daughters Miranda, right, and Millicent.