The Pearson family celebrating Ben's 6th birthday recently.
A young Laois couple have praised the ‘amazing’ care of their two premature babies in Portlaoise hospital.
Sarah Claire and Brian Pearson from Borris-in-Ossory had all three of their sons born prematurely, with two of them needing weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) in Portlaoise.
Their first son Ben was born six years ago, eight weeks ahead of schedule.
“My pregnancy had been normal, until things changed. I was not sure what was wrong, I went to the hospital and they told me I was in labour. It was scary, very daunting and unknown. It was after a loss so that made it extra scary,” said Sarah Claire.
Ben weighed just 4lb 3oz. He was placed in the SCBU and Sarah Claire began a twice daily trek from Borris-in-Ossory to the unit, while struggling to pump breastmilk for Ben.
“The staff took amazing care of us, they really take you under their wing. They guided and advised me on renting a breast pump from the Irish Premature Babies Association and touched bases with me on the phone,” she said.
Ben spent six weeks in the unit before safely coming home. Two years later Sarah Claire became pregnant again.
“My water broke at 30 weeks and six days, I was sent to the Coombe because the pregnancy was so early. Alex was born by c-section at 33 weeks, weighing 3lb 14oz. Because I had been in the care of Portlaoise before, we were lucky that he was brought back there and they looked after Alex in the SCBU for a further four weeks.
“Again, they kept in touch with us on the phone, they sent me bus timetables, they were just amazing, really caring,” she said.
Ben is now 6 and a pupil in Killadooley NS. Alex, 3 is in the school’s preschool unit. They have a little brother Matt aged 20 months. He was also born in Portlaoise early, but at 36 weeks he luckily did not need the intensive care of the SCBU.
Below: Ben aged 4 weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit in Portlaoise hospital maternity ward.
Sarah Claire praises the follow up care for Ben and Alex.
“They are all flying it. There are minor things like glasses and speech and learning, but these were caught early as part of the follow-up. When Ben got his eyes checked, the consultant insisted on seeing all the boys as eyesight problems can be common in premature babies. Alex had a tongue tie and again the consultant referred us. It is all very reassuring,” she said.
Last January the couple held a coffee morning and a raffle in Sarah Claire’s parents home in Ballaghmore, to raise money for the unit as a thank-you.
“We got a wonderful response. We had about 60 people, lots of neighbours and parents from the school,” she said.
They also held a raffle and sold €800 of tickets in the Roscrea SuperValu.
“The response was absolutely brilliant, people were just throwing money in, even strangers, who wanted to donate to the baby unit,” she said.They also opened a GoFundMe account and between everything have reached €2,700 in a month.
“People are still donating,. It is still open and we hope to reach €3,000 in the next few weeks,” she said.
The money will be used for equipment in the unit not funded by the HSE, such as cubicle screens, breast pumps and heated cots. The couple thanks everyone for their support.
“Please donate, big or small. Every little helps,” Sarah Claire said.