“YOU’RE literally, in some respects, creating end of life memories; minutes or hours of memories that will frankly last a lifetime.”
Those are the words of Dr Brendan Murphy, clinical lead-neonatology, Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate, describing the potential of the unique Neonatal Family Sanctum project at Cork University Hospital Maternity (CUMH).
Providing care for approximately one in five of all newborns in Ireland, CUMH launched the appeal to create the unique Neonatal Family Sanctum.
For most families, having a baby is a time of intense joy, but for a small number it is a brief period where the hospital is providing “end of life care at the beginning of life”.
The Neonatal Unit at CUMH is one of the busiest units in the country catering for approximately 8,000 births per year.
Especially when time is limited, the hospital wants to ensure that their care is of the highest standard.
The sanctum in the central garden of CUMH, aims to provide a place of solace and privacy for the family of a baby receiving palliative care or for an ill mother.
“What we’re very aware of in the service is that that care isn’t just medical care or critical care in an intensive care environment — we want it to be more holistic and family centred and that’s been something we have strived to for many years,” explained Dr Murphy.
He described the family sanctum as “a space or a place for a little bit of time, for privacy and solace and dignity, but giving the family time to be outside of the hospital critical care environment”.
The Neonatal Family Sanctum will comprise of both a neonatal sanctum and a parent’s room located nearby.
Dr Murphy noted an incident a number of years ago where a baby’s time was very short, and staff helped to support the family to have a brief time outdoors for which the family were “profoundly grateful”.
He said that the moment can often be a “really poignant and unique time in any family’s life”.
“Even if time is short, that idea of having been outside and under the open sky even briefly is a unique thing.
“Sometimes we mightn’t necessarily realise how important that could be to a family.”
The sanctum would be utilised for when “it’s more about the quality of the life that remains and supporting the child and the family carefully and gently around that end of life care”, according to Dr Murphy.
Last year, following on from the success of the Strike Against Stroke campaign, Apple employees took part in the Baby Steps Appeal, raising funds for the CUMH Neonatal Family Sanctum.
The major fundraising drive to support the building of the unique family sanctum saw Apple employees walk, run and cycle as part of the appeal, with every hour of exercise being matched by funding from Apple which will be donated directly to CUH Charity to support the Neonatal Family Sanctum Appeal.
Michael Nason, CEO of CUH Charity, said that the project is something that the hospital has wanted to do for some time.
“With that money, it has helped us to get other people to start supporting that project so we would hope we would start construction on that project before the end of the year,” he added.
For more information or to donate, please visit the Neonatal Family Sanctum Appeal.