Baby Lifeline

Total raised: £32,656

Judy Ledger, 61, founder and CEO of Baby Lifeline, tells us why the charity is so important to her.

Judy Ledger with her daughter Sara, who was born prematurely and cared for by Baby Lifeline.

Baby Lifeline – the facts

  • Baby Lifeline supports the care of pregnant women and newborn babies worldwide by raising funds to purchase maternity equipment, training maternity healthcare providers and carrying out relevant research to improve care.
  • The nationwide Monitoring for Mums major appeal has funded requests totalling £5m for mother and baby units countrywide (monitoringformums.co.uk).
  • The charity works with leading health and legal professionals, as well as hospitals, to identify and prioritise equipment needs for the maternity sector.
  • To find out more go to babylifeline.org.uk

The Candis Big Give

Back in 1978 I was 21 and training to be a State Registered Nurse. My husband Graham and I lived in the grounds of Coventry Hospital. During my training, I became pregnant – at first everything seemed to be fine but at 23 weeks I began to feel unwell. Over the course of a week I was admitted to A&E three times, only to be told I had a urinary tract infection.  The pains increased and I was rushed to maternity as an emergency case. My baby daughter, Lisa, was born at almost 24 weeks but died during birth. Lisa was taken away for a post mortem and then incinerated, I didn’t even get to see her.  In those days, it was what the midwives thought was best.  Afterwards I suffered dizzy spells and panic attacks – I’m sure because of what had happened. I conceived again within a year only to find myself in the same nightmare when I went into labour at just over 25 weeks and my daughter, Emma was born. This time I could see her but she was gravely ill and taken into the neonatal unit. She was so tiny that she couldn’t be incubated and died within 24 hours. It’s still a bit of a blur – I just remember feeling completely numb. A few months later I became pregnant for the third time and the consultant took really good care of me. But despite being given the drug Ritrodrine to stop premature labour, my son Stuart was born at 24 weeks. He was whisked away to the baby unit to be cared for and although they did everything they could, Stuart died the next day.

Judy with Paul Edwards, the first baby to use an incubator she raised funds for in 1981.

To take my mind off what had happened I threw myself into raising money for the neonatal unit by any means I could, from sourcing raffle prizes to organising nights out.

The fact that I was a trained nurse meant I could do things a little differently. Instead of working alongside the public or bereaved parents, I approached health professionals and built the charity on valid report findings, their advice and requests.  The first thing we were able to buy for the ward was a state of the art incubator. It cost £7,000 and I’m still in touch with the first baby who used it.

A year after starting the charity I gave birth to Richard, now 36. At just two weeks premature he was healthy and I was overwhelmed to be a mum at long last. Although Graham and I parted when Richard was two, we have remained great friends. I went on to meet my husband, Tim, a lawyer, through the charity, after he won a prize in one of my raffles! We got married in 1986 and have two wonderful children, James, 32, who lives in Australia and Sara, 28, who works alongside Baby Lifeline with training in conjunction with Hull University.  Both were born prematurely and cared for in baby units funded by Baby Lifeline.

Back in 1990 a London consultant suggested the importance of specialist staff training. He explained that new reports such as the Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirths and Deaths in Infants (CESDI), found that an average of one baby a day was dying in the UK, due to human error.  Following our extensive research, it was agreed all care providers for pregnant women and newborns – regardless of their position within the medical profession – would be given the same training.  With his help and the support of the health professionals already on board, we produced a series of videos which were sent all over the world, including India and Pakistan. Four years later, I worked with a professor to arrange educational conferences, and our maternity health professional training took off from there.  Always working on recommendations from report findings we brought all the disciplines together and now train midwives, obstetricians, obstetric anaesthetists, GPs and latterly paramedics, as in-depth training for first responders is crucial.

Since last year, we have provided training to the North West Ambulance Trust. Shortly after his training, a paramedic emailed to say he’d attended an emergency maternity case and used the procedures covered on our course, and as a consequence, mother and baby were safe and well, which was so rewarding to hear.

We also received some government funding for research in 2017 and we have been using it to work closely with Hull University for research into prematurity.  We’ve also managed to train over 6,000 people over 12 months, which is incredible! Our mission is to ensure the healthiest outcome possible from pregnancy and birth. To do that you must help in ways that will really make an impact, from foetal monitoring, providing bilirubin meters for special care babies (to measure jaundice), to a state-of-the-art foetal scanner, which we’ve just bought for Birmingham Women’s hospital. Then there’s the training that surrounds all this amazing equipment, to prevent accidents at birth, stillbirth and to deal with all kinds of emergency situations. It all follows a pattern and there’s research attached to each facet.

It’s taken 36 years but I’m now ready to buy a headstone to remember the babies I lost to prematurity – after all, everything we’ve achieved with Baby Lifeline has been inspired by them and it feels like the right time to do it. In the future, I’d like Baby Lifeline to go from strength-to-strength to ensure the very best care for pregnant mums and new born babies for many generations to come.

Judy enjoys spending time with her family, especially now she is a grandmother.

The £32,656 raised in the Candis Big Give is being used to help prevent stillbirth and neonatal deaths and to avoid preventable brain injuries in newborn babies by providing equipment and training to maternity units across the UK.

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