This date shines a spotlight on the special issues facing babies born prematurely, while celebrating the increasing number of babies who survive and go on to live fulfilling and active lives despite their challenging start in life.
It is a time of reflection for family, friends and colleagues who have, or know, someone who has given birth to or sadly lost a premature baby, and to acknowledge and say thanks to all staff involved in neonatal care.
Some of the support we receive is not always financial, but still hugely beneficial in helping us achieve our goals. The business community has provided their generous support, not solely through financial means, but by helping us raise awareness of World Prematurity Day. Apex Hotels, Edinburgh International Conference Centre and The University of Edinburgh have illuminated their buildings purple to recognise this key date.
An estimated 15 million babies globally are born too soon each year. In the UK, around 60,000 babies are born prematurely, accounting for approximately 8 per cent of all births. In 2020, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh admitted 821 babies into the special care baby unit.
The stark financial reality is that it costs the NHS more than £1,000 per day to look after a baby who requires intensive care in a neonatal unit. Having a baby is always expensive for parents, but, according to charity Bliss, parents with a baby in neonatal care spend on average £282 per week on food and parking.
With a broad range of services, we support the specialist care provided by staff at the Simpson Neonatal Unit in Edinburgh. Our work takes a variety of forms, from raising funds for a new family unit to accommodate those whose babies are being cared for at the hospital, to an app which allows communication and updates about babies at the touch of a button.
We are always looking for new ways to raise funds. This year, we will again be working with the Big Give. It is the UK’s largest match funding campaign and offers businesses in Scotland the opportunity to donate to us through their Christmas Challenge. With many workplaces again forgoing their usual Christmas party, we hope they will consider using some of this money for donations to our charity.
With the news of Curtis Means, a 16 month-old boy from Alabama, breaking the Guinness world record as the most premature baby to survive, it really hit home to me about the marvel of modern day medicine and how more premature babies will go on to live healthy lives.
Curtis was born 132 days premature in July 2020. He is now a healthy child at one and a half years old. Sadly though, he had a twin who did not survive.
There are fewer things sweeter than seeing a child born prematurely go on to survive, thrive and lead a happy life. Just like Curtis, it has been so joyful to hear similar stories from our families who tell us that the teams in Simpsons supported their family through the darkest days and celebrated every small achievement with them.
While it is important to remember that every one in 10 children is born prematurely, it is also worth considering the impactful lives that many of these children will go on to have - famous figures such as Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Stevie Wonder and Winston Churchill were all born early.
Jessica Wilson is a trustee at Simpsons Special Care Babies; www.sscb.org/donate or text Baby 5 to 70480 to donate £5 (costs £5 plus standard rate message)