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A room with a vision

27 October 2015

Health Care

October is baby loss awareness month and the Butterfly Bereavement Suite at Southend University Hospital has recently been refurbished and redecorated thanks in no small part to the dedicated help and assistance of several families that have been directly affected by baby loss.

A new born baby is one of life's happiest moments but for some that joyous occasion turns to one of sadness and loss, which is where the Butterfly Bereavement Suite on the central delivery suite at the hospital becomes a vital facility for families impacted by the death of their baby.

The room, with its comfortable looking bed, leather sofa, wardrobe, kitchen facilities and even its own toilet and shower room, looks more like an apartment than a room in the hospital, but that's the whole point, offering the family a safe and comfortable space to spend time with their baby and receive open visiting from family and friends.

Bereavement midwife, Amanda Cushing explained: "We've all been humbled by the continued generosity and commitment that so many parents who have suffered the loss of a baby have for the butterfly suite, without their support we wouldn't be able to continue to upgrade this room and make such a difficult time just that little bit more bearable and comfortable.

"Families have done everything from cake sales, to charity balls and marathons to help buy furniture, kitchen items, a television and art for the room. With many of those having used the facilities they know how important it is and want to continue to help others, creating some light in a time of sadness. For many I think it is their way of giving something back and saying thank you for having this facility and care, and then improving this for others. They are an incredible group of people and we, and other families who have already benefitted from the room, can't thank them enough."

Here are their stories:

Jade, Lee and Lewis

Lewis will always be Jade Lewis', 26, and Lee Konig's, 29, both from Great Wakering, little miracle as they were told that I couldn't have children. For them, his death on August 30 2015 will always be the cruellest and harshest of twists. The incredibly strong young couple have nothing but praise for the gentle and calming Southend University Hospital staff at such at intensely emotional and sensitive time.

Of the Butterfly suite, Jade said: "Everything is there to help give you the right love care and attention; it's like your own private apartment that allows you and your family to escape in your own self-contained bubble."

During their time in the room Jade and Lee spent lots of time looking through the window so felt it fitting to buy a canvas that depicts a scene through an open window featuring a fairy blowing butterflies up into the sky.

Lee said: "We saw this nice bright picture and it just clicked, blowing the butterflies up to heaven, it just seemed right for us and the room. It perfectly captured our little miracle."

The picture now creates a focal point for the room and it's hard not to be drawn in by it or the inscription below that proudly reads: In Memory Of Our Precious Little Boy Lewis Daniel Konig "Always Mummy & Daddy's Little Miracle."

Jade could not speak highly enough of the hospital, adding: "Lewis looked really peaceful and they had thought about every detail from lovely knitted clothes for him to wear and he looked really peaceful in a Moses basket, they've really helped us cherish some special, lasting memories at a very difficult time."

And just as Lewis Daniel Konig will always be with his family, his family will always be with him, as Jade explained. "Lewis is my last name; Daniel is his cousin's name and dad's middle name and Konig, his dad'ssurname, so we'll always be with him. We'll always be together as a family."

Lorna, Paul and Noah

Lorna Lawrence, said: "I was admitted as an emergency in my pregnancy with Noah in December 2013, and unexpectedly went into premature labour. Unfortunately due to Noah's gestation at the time we knew the outcome was not going to be very good. The Butterfly suite was a safe place for me, my husband and our families. I could have who I wanted in there, when I wanted so it was unlike being on a normal ward with normal restrictions. 

"Also, the location of the room meant that we were away from other mums and their babies, which was important under the circumstances, as it's the last thing you want to face when you have lost your baby.  

"Inside it's less of a hospital room and more of a home from home and is as nice as an environment as you can expect with it being in a hospital. It provided a homely environment for us to spend the short time we had with Noah and make as many memories as we could." 

And Lorna and Paul, both from Southend, have helped it seem even more homely for families staying in the Butterfly suite thanks to their dedicated fundraising which has meant the hospital has been able to purchase beautiful new furniture for the room. Lorna has also kitted out the kitchen with homely items to make the room more comfy and regularly gives toiletries to the suite to support parents who may be in a similar emergency situation. 

Suzanne, Pete and Tilly

Suzanne and Pete sadly know why an area such as the Butterfly Suite is so important a facility, Suzanne said:"It's not a room you imagine when you think of a maternity ward. No one ever thinks they are going to be in the circumstances to use it but we could see that it's an invaluable space where a family can just spend precious time together creating memories."

Peter and Suzanne, both now 33, endured every parent-to-be's worst nightmare in September 2013 when a scan at 33 weeks into the pregnancy revealed there was no amniotic fluid around the baby.

Three weeks later, on October 4, at 5.39pm, Suzanne, supported by midwife Amanda Cushing, gave birth to little Tilly.

"She was born sleeping and she was just incredibly beautiful," says Peter simply.

The couple were provided with a 'cold cot' which enabled them to spend precious time and wake up with their daughter the following day. That morning both sets of grandparents also visited, and later that day she was blessed by a hospital chaplain.

"We needed that time to be able to sit down and talk to her, hold her, take photographs," says Peter. "It didn't take the pain away, but it brought us a bit of comfort, gave us memories of her."

Since then the Newman's have raised more than £3,000 for Havens, SANDS, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, and the Butterfly Bereavement Suite. This has been achieved through Pete's running, he completed the Brighton marathon earlier this year, and Suzanne explained how it has had a positive impact.

She said: "It's been nice that we've been able to do things in Tilly's memory and I know that has really spurred Pete on in his running, he finds it very therapeutic. It really gives him some clear thinking time.

"Tilly's little sister Sophia was born in January this year.  Throughout the pregnancy Southend Hospital were exceptionally supportive, providing continued reassurance. And although Sophia was never lucky enough to meet Tilly, she will know all about her older sister."