Tara Danks of Winmalee knows that if her oldest son Jacob had been born 21 years ago, he would never have survived.
She’s also not too sure whether his younger brother and sister would have made it either.
The 34-year-old teacher will celebrate this weekend with more than 100 other parents at the 21st birthday fundraising event for the Nepean Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Parents Support — (NNICUPS) a charity group that provides emotional and practical support to about 250 families annually.
“We are parents who have previously had babies in the NICU and understand the very special work that happens there to save the lives of our newest and most vulnerable community members.”
Jacob, now six, was born at 27 weeks and is now hearing impaired and has cerebral palsy.
“He spent three months struggling to survive,” Mrs Danks said. “It was a cervical issue.”
Her second child Ella, now four, (also considered premature) made it to 36 weeks after doctors ordered Mrs Danks to 10 weeks hospital bed rest and her youngest, Ashton, two-and-a-half, was born at 39 weeks after a simple operation on her cervix.
About 21,000 premature babies are born every year in Australia. In 2012 in excess of 1200 babies were in the NICU at Nepean.
“There are eight NIC units across Australia that have the same level of care as we do and they try to get you a bed as close as possible but we’ve had mums from Armidale, from Moree, from everywhere,” Mrs Danks, the president said.
“Our group holds morning teas for parents in the NICU giving them a support network during this difficult time, a mothers group for after hospital discharge and the most recent initiative is providing some meals for some of the families.”
While Mrs Danks didn’t get any food hampers herself — the food program only started a year ago — she knows how challenging the journey can be and how important it can be to talk to others who have been through the same “rollercoaster” experience.
“No-one knows what the journey is like until you have been there. It’s not the way you anticipate how you will bring a baby into the world.”
Former Springwood resident Julie Clarke started NNICUPS after moving to Australia with her family, including her young son, who was born prematurely in England.
The 21st birthday fundraising dinner is on this Saturday, March 2 at St Marys Band Club. Tickets are $80. All funds raised go towards purchasing much needed equipment for the intensive care unit.
For details firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the facebook page www.facebook.com/NNICUPS
“The Blue Mountains community has always been so supportive of our fundraising ... this is a great opportunity to catch up with NICU staff and families who have travelled similar journeys.”