Profiling Prematurity - meet Holly

November is a month where we raise awareness of premature births and admissions to neonatal intensive care units internationally. Each year approximately 15 million babies are born preterm (37 weeks gestation) worldwide, with a global preterm birth rate of about 11%. In Australia 1 in 10 babies is born premature and approximately 15% of all babies require some form of extra care at birth with admission to a Special Care Nursery (SCN) or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Each year on 17th November we celebrate World Prematurity Day, this year to coincide with WPD and #neonatalnovember we are launching a series called 'Profiling Prematurity'. We have approached a number of our staff who have been personally affected by the NICU and asked them to tell us their stories. We are exceptionally grateful to the Grace NICU staff and their families who have kindly agreed to participate in the series and share their personal journeys. 

In our first profiling prematurity interview meet Holly she is a Senior Social Worker in our NICU. 

Tells us why you have been asked to be part of the profiling prematurity series:  

For two reasons, one being I was a NICU patient myself and the other is that my current position is that of Senior Social Worker in CHW NICU. Like many of our NICU patients my own arrival into the world was premature (26 weeks).  I was delivered at Westmead Hospital in 1983 and while I clearly have no memory of this, my experience working in CHW NICU for the past 4 years has helped me to gain insight into just how frightening it was for my own parents having a vulnerable newborn in NICU.

 What have you parents told you about your birth and NICU stay?

The history provided by my parents is that I was transferred to Westmead Hospital NICU. CHW did not exist at this time. I weighed only 1180gms, with my parents being given the news that I had 50/50 chance of survival. My mum describe me as “wrapped in cotton wool and aluminium foil” and that I was very tiny, being only half the width of her hand. Parents were able to visit anytime but grandparents were only able to visit once.

At 10 days old they were unsure if I would survive and so I was baptised in the humidity crib. Following weeks of uncertainty, I was discharged home at 2.2kg just short of 3 months of age with no medical complications apart from being small. My parents were excited when I eventually graduated from wearing dolls clothes!           

 How did you come to work in Grace and did being an NICU graduate influence your choice to work in the NICU?

 I had previously provided cover as the Grace Ward Social Worker for a number of months and knew immediately that NICU was the clinical area I would like to continue in and learn more about. I felt truly privileged to work with families in the perinatal space and particularly valued the role of supporting parents with infants that were not doing so well. 

I honestly have not previously given much thought about being a NICU graduate myself until now.  Working in this space I have increasingly developed a strong appreciation for the incredible expertise, the ongoing education and research opportunities within the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care. 

 Tell us about your proudest moments and biggest achievements.

 Securing my first job as a Social Worker at RPA Hospital, becoming a mum of two beautiful boys and recently completing my post graduate in Perinatal Mental Health.  My post graduate qualification was made possible by the generosity of NICU management and I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to pursue advanced study into the clinical area that I feel most passionate about.

 What would you like parents of babies in the NICU to know?

 I would like parents in NICU to know that:

-          Given the wealth of knowledge and expertise among NICU staff that their babies are in good hands. 

-          NICU staff are passionate about their individual clinical responsibilities, including Allied Health staff.

-          The mental health and wellbeing of parents is seen as paramount to facilitate parents being able to support and care for their babies.

-          Compassionate and respectful care is offered to all our families with a strong family Centred Care focus.

 Thank you so much to Holly for sharing her and her families stories!