LIFE CHANGER: Leo’s neonatal centre supporting families
The new site Of Leo's Cub Hub at 15 Shelton Court, Image: Google Maps
A mother who lost her own child is setting up a centre that she hopes will be a ‘life changer’ for parents of sick babies.
Lottie King, the CEO of Leo’s, a charity that supports families whose child has received neonatal care is currently renovating 15 Shelton Court in Thorntree to make it into Leo’s Cub Hub.
She hopes it will be a home away from home for families and will provide counselling, as well as a range of activities for parents and children including messy play, neonatal yoga, first aid courses, and sensory play in specially designed rooms.
Lottie, 33, said: “Our plan was to create the UK’s first centre to cater to neonatal health and wellbeing.
“The work we do is solely focussed around helping families who have had babies born early or born sick and the long term implications that has on families.
“There is nothing anywhere else in the country, it’s the first of its kind so we wanted to make it really special.”
Lottie set up the charity after her own son, Leo, died not long after he was born prematurely.
His twin, Oska, who was born at 25 weeks survived however, he spent the first few years of his life in hospital and at the age of six still has ongoing health issues.
Speaking of Oska’s early life, she said: “We didn’t get to experience anything. I was too afraid to take him to places.
“So being able to take him somewhere where everyone would have been mindful, everyone would have been super clean and everyone would have been in the same boat as me would have been such a benefit to me and to him.”
Following the premature birth of her twins, and the subsequent death of Leo, Lottie suffered from anxiety and PTSD and said that there was no targeted health support for families whose children have required neonatal care.
She added: “Having somewhere to go, being able to access therapy and speak to other families who had been through something similar and being able to experience nice things rather than just constantly being in and out of the hospital and being stuck in the house, I think would have been such a game-changer and life changer for me.
“The impact on these families from everything that they go through is astronomical so we try to get in there as quickly as we can and give them the support we can. The hope is it can be a home away from home or a safe haven.”
According to Bliss, a charity that campaigns for premature and sick babies to receive the best care states that around 1 in 7 babies is admitted to a neonatal unit in the UK.
Lottie, who has been running the charity for more than three years now, receives a lot of great feedback about the work the charity does.
“We have parents who came to us who wanted to take their own lives, who said they wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for us. We have had parents say that the service is life-changing and they don’t know what they would do without it,” she said.
“We have been sitting where they are and can give them great insight into getting the care they need.”
The renovations of the site, which was bought at auction from Thirteen Group, are ongoing and Lottie hopes the centre will be able to be open by Christmas.
Leo’s currently has submitted a planning application to Middlesbrough Council to increase the number of fire exits, erect roller shutters, add ramps to the building and put gates at the property.
The charity is looking for local businesses to help support the new centre as it requires a further £50,000 to make sure it can open.
Words: Emily Craigie, Local Democracy Reporter
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