Sarah Balmforth started working at the hospice’s Russell House centre in June, joining the perinatal team of six staff, including a neonatal nurse specialist, three neonatal staff nurses and two neonatal care support assistants, along with the support of doctors when needed.
Sarah was previously labour ward co-ordinator for nine years at Halifax Royal Infirmary, and prior to that she was a midwife for five years at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.
She said she is very conscious that this is a first for the UK:
“We are determined to set a very high standard. We will be developing and defining this new midwifery role, ensuring that we continue to work closely with families and healthcare professionals.”
“Our goal is to provide all the support which families need before, during and after the birth of a child who is either known during pregnancy to have a life-shortening condition, or where unexpected difficulties arise around the time of the birth. As part of this, we hope to bring joy into every situation, no matter how difficult. Every baby is precious, every pregnancy unique, and we are here to help families celebrate that – even in the midst of sadness.”
Sarah works in close partnership with midwives in the local area. She explained:
“We work with families right from the time when a potential problem is diagnosed, which is often at the 20-week scan, but could be at any point up to the delivery – even when no problems have previously been detected. We can support the family up to the birth, during delivery and afterwards. That can mean helping the family to leave hospital sooner and bringing them here to Russell House for a while. We can help establish breastfeeding, build parents’ confidence when looking after a baby with a particular condition, and explain things to siblings.”
Emma Bleasdale, neonatal nurse specialist at the hospice, commented:
“Forget Me Not is so grateful to all of the amazing members of the public who have made this unique appointment – and our entire perinatal service – possible. They may never see for themselves how the money they have donated or fundraised is spent, but we would like them to know that they have made possible something which is unparalleled in Europe, and something which is of massive importance to families at a time of real need.”
“I am sure that what we are pioneering here will spread to other hospices around the UK, which means that the people of Huddersfield are quite literally changing the way children’s hospices operate right across the country.”
She believes this new role is essential. She said:
“Many families need the extra assistance we provide. That can mean intensive specialist support in coming to terms with their situation during pregnancy or just after the birth, and in understanding what might lie ahead. It also means continuity of contact – families may need support for a protracted period of time, and they would rather continue to see the same friendly face.”
“Often, no one knows exactly what will happen, and we have to wait until the baby is delivered, which can leave the family in limbo for months on end. We are here to make that limbo bearable.”
“Sometimes families are told that their baby will not survive, and yet a year on, here they are! But sadly, at other times, the baby is unable to survive birth, or dies not long afterwards. At such a devastating time, it is important to work closely with the family to help meet their many needs.”
For more information visit Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice