Holding your new born baby for the very first time is one of life’s most magical experiences that you never forget, but for local mum Charlene Newell her daughter’s early arrival at St Michael’s in Bristol was fraught and heart breakingly emotional. Baby Danika Newell needed extra special care in the weeks to come and was immediately taken from her mother’s arms to be looked after on a specialist premature baby unit in Bath – the new Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care (NICU). Thanks to the excellent care she received in the first few weeks of her life, Danika is now a healthy and happy two year old.
This October, Charlene (who is 31 years of age and a mother to six daughters all under the age of 11 including Danika) will be following in the footsteps of her fifth daughter’s first journey by running the Bristol to Bath Marathon. She will be joining The Forever Friends Appeal’s running team, along with her husband James, to raise funds for NICU as a thank you for saving her daughter’s life.
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Here’s their story, as told by Charlene: “My daughter was due in February 2013 and we were so excited to welcome the new addition to our family! However one evening in December, at 30 weeks, my waters suddenly broke and I had to be rushed straight to St. Michael’s in Bristol. After a few routine checks we discovered that my baby’s heart kept dropping, which was frightening, so I was quickly admitted underwent an emergency C-section.
My daughter, Danika Newell was born on 18th December 2012, 10 weeks early weighing 3lb5oz and this birth weight soon dropped to 2lb 10oz. I only saw my beautiful baby girl for a few minutes before the doctors made the decision to transfer her straight to Bath’s NICU where she could receive the specialist care she needed. I had to stay at St Michael’s and my heart felt like it had been ripped out of my chest when they took her away – she was so fragile and I was completely devastated, but knew it was the best for her.
Danika stayed at the RUH for the next 6 ½ weeks and there were so many ups and downs – it was a real emotional roller coaster for everyone. On day three they scanned her brain to see what was going on and found some bleeding. We were told this can happen but could go either way – it could clear up or it could get worse and so we had to play an exhausting waiting game. She also had a hemothorax and so had a tube inserted into her lungs to help her breathe. The alarm bell would always go off which still haunts me to this day. Just sitting there watching her heart rate drop was horrible. She was kept asleep for a while after she was born so all we could do was rest our hand gently on her skin and hope that everything would be ok. Leaving her in the Hospital alone in her incubator at the end of every day was heart breaking, knowing we could get a phone call in the middle of the night if there was a change in her condition, which did happen a couple of times.
We felt helpless but despite everything the nurses were wonderful and included us in her care as much as they could and as she got stronger we were able to change her nappy and give her a cuddle. As Danika was there over Christmas all the babies on the unit had a little stocking put at the bottom of their incubators to find on Christmas morning. Father Christmas even popped in for a visit on Christmas day! It was such a kind and thoughtful touch and really lifted our spirits – we’ll always remember Danika’s first Christmas.”
During her 6 ½ week stay on the Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care (NICU) Danika became stronger and stronger and eventually was allowed to come home. Now a bright and bubbly two year old, Charlene and James are supporting the unit by taking part in the Bristol to Bath Marathon – a 26.2 mile run that will begin in the city where Danika was born and take them to to the city where she spent the crucial first few weeks of her life, literally running right past the RUH’s doors on route.
Training for a marathon with six children can’t be easy but Charlene is a real superstar. She’ll be completing the Torbay, Frome and Bristol half marathons in preparation for the big race. Charlene continues: “Due to the fantastic care Danika received and the support we were given I really wanted to give something back and raise funds for the never ending needs of this special unit. I have been training as much as possible, fitting it in in around being mum to my six lovely daughters (my favorite job in the world!) plus working at the BRI.
Completing the Bristol to Bath Marathon will be a massive challenge for me but nothing like the journey Danika went on as a baby. I know as long as I keep in mind the reason for all the hard work, I’ll keep pushing to the end with support of my family. It’s going to be an amazing event to be a part of and all for a very special cause.”
At the Royal United Hospital in Bath one in ten babies are born too early, too sick or too soon and therefore need additional care like Danika. The Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care (NICU) provides this type of care to around three hundred babies every year. These babies, who can fit in the palm of your hand or are too sick to survive on their own, need everything that modern technology can offer. This very Centre was 50% funded by The Forever Friends Appeal, the main charitable arm of the Hospital, from charitable support as part of the NICU ‘space to grow’ Campaign and provides these premature babies with the best possible start in life. Charitable donations and support from people like Charlene and James, continue provide state-of-the-art treatment and diagnostic equipment that helps staff deliver the best possible care to these fragile young lives.
To sponsor Charlene and support premature babies at the RUH like Danika, please visit her online fundraising page: www.justgiving.com/Charlene-Newell
If you would like to join Charlene and run the very first Bristol to Bath Marathon to support a ward or department that is close to your heart at the RUH please visit our Bristol + bath Marathon Page or call 01225 821535. The Appeal has a number of Gold Bond places still available to join the team!