Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland charity opens new suite for parents who lose a baby

By Donna Deeney

Parents in Londonderry who have been given the devastating news that their baby has died will now have a place to spend precious time and say goodbye.

The first bereavement suite in Northern Ireland funded and opened by Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity) has opened at Altnagelvin Hospital.

Tragically, 76 babies were stillborn in Northern Ireland in 2015. A further 102 babies died neonatally, which includes 93 early neonatal deaths (within the first seven days of life).

Tommy Ferguson, chairman of Sands NI recalled his own experience when he and his partner Leslie Altic were told their baby son Joshua had died in his mother's womb.

Mr Ferguson said: "We attended the hospital when Joshua was 41 weeks after an uncomplicated pregnancy.

"So when the midwife said she couldn't find the heart beat and brought in another midwife, who then brought in a consultant, I didn't put two and two together but my wife did.

"She knew and she was in bits and then the consultant told us, 'I'm sorry I can't find a heart beat. I'm sorry, your baby is dead'.

"We were brought into a delivery suite and looking back, I remember it was the medical equipment that was in the room.

"It was a place where people did their work and in the midst of all the equipment, wires, monitors and cables our son was delivered.

"When I came into this suite I saw none of that, so what has been done here will not cause any more harm - it is amazing because when I think back now, my memories are of how horrible the medical room was.

"Sadly there will be other parents who will need this room, but this will soften the traumatic experience for them."

Steven Guy, network coordinator for Sands NI, said the organisation aims to have a bereavement suite in every hospital across Northern Ireland by 2019.

He added: "The new Lavender Suite is a huge milestone for the Sands Northern Ireland network as it is the biggest project we've ever attempted, and we are delighted that it is now complete."

Kieran Downey, director of Women and Children's Services at the trust added: "The opening of the new Lavender Suite at Altnagelvin Hospital marks another welcome development in the provision of bereavement care and support for parents and their families at a very difficult time in their lives."

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