A NEW calendar starring six local toddlers has gone on sale to raise funds for premature baby charity TinyLife.
Sixteen-month-old twin sisters Amy and Caitlin McCracken and 17-month-old twin brothers Jacob and Callum Lyman, all from Glengormley, as well as brother and sister twins Cassie and Logan McCullough aged 20 months and from Newtownabbey, have been selected to star in the calendar alongside 16 other babies, toddlers and children who experienced a difficult start to life following a premature birth.
All six children and their parents received help from charity TinyLife and its staff of dedicated volunteers.
Amy weighed 4lb 4oz and Caitlin, 4lb 11oz, when they were born at 36 weeks in the Mater Hospital in Belfast.
They had to be delivered prematurely by caesarean section because Amy was not growing and Caitlin was not gaining weight, which meant they needed internal feeding tubes when they were born and their sucking reflexes were not working properly, making feeding difficult.
They were born jaundice and had to spend time in an incubator until they were ready to be taken home a week later.
Mum, Jenny McCracken said: “TinyLife provided a volunteer called Rebecca for two hours on an afternoon every week.
“The girls weren’t sleeping very well so I was very tired and her visits allowed me to take a bit of a time out and sit down with a cup of tea.”
Tots Jacob and Callum were born weighing just 3lb 12oz and 3lb 13oz at 31 weeks and five days and spent five weeks in hospital after being born at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast.
The boys’ mum Catherine had been pregnant with triplets but suffered complications and underwent laser therapy treatment at St George’s Hospital in London at 21 weeks, before giving birth to Jacob and Callum at 31 weeks.
Jacob and Callum’s mum, Catherine said: “It is certainly hard work being a mum with twins and without family living nearby so I was delighted to get the help of a TinyLife volunteer – who was an angel.
“It meant that I could leave the house, it was the only opportunity I got, and I had the peace of mind that the volunteer was very well qualified. I don’t know what I would have done without her help.”
Cassie and Logan were the most premature of all three twins, having been brought into the world at 29 weeks and four days. The tiny pair weighed in at just 2lb 11oz and 2lb 13oz respectively.
Both babies needed assistance to help them breathe and were suffering from intraventricular haemorrhage – small brain bleeds. Eight weeks later having made a recovery, Cassie and Logan were allowed to leave Antrim Area Hospital.
Cassie and Logan’s mum, Lyndsey McCullough commented: “TinyLife sponsors a room at the Antrim Hospital for parents to ‘home’ in before they are discharged so I stayed the night with no wires attached to Cassie and Logan but with the nurses on hand in case I needed assistance. TinyLife even provided me with a breast pump I could use at home and their volunteers supported me at home for a morning a week when we first brought Cassie and Logan home. I’m so grateful for their support so it’s great to take this opportunity to help.”
All six tots are now fighting fit, with Amy and Caitlin featuring in the TinyLife 2013 calendar’s ‘faces of December’, Jacob and Callum taking in the spot for April and Cassie and Logan brightening up February’s pages.
The 25th anniversary edition of the calendar, shot by Venture Photography, tells the stories of families with children who were born prematurely and have received support from TinyLife.
Julie McBride, managing director at Venture Photography Northern Ireland, said her team was pleased to be able to support the calendar once again this year.
She said: “At Venture we don’t just take photographs, we tell stories. The families with children in this calendar have remarkable stories to tell and we feel privileged to have been able to produce this calendar which will hopefully inspire others dealing with sick or premature children.
“We have a longstanding relationship with TinyLife, and we’re hoping to raise more than ever this year from the calendar to help them continue their important work.”
TinyLife is Northern Ireland’s only premature and vulnerable baby charity, dedicated to reducing illness, disability and death in babies and providing support for families who have been affected by these circumstances.
Last year there were three premature babies born every day in Northern Ireland.
Valerie Cromie from TinyLife said: “We are delighted to be associated with Venture for the fifth year running to produce this calendar. It provides hope and inspiration for families coping
with the arrival of a sick or premature baby and shows what’s possible despite an incredibly difficult start to life for these children.
“All of the families involved have really enjoyed
taking part and love the final result. We’re all really proud of our little calendar stars and hope the public gets a lot of enjoyment from the calendarwhen it goes on sale at the end of this month.”
The calendar is on sale for £5 and available buy from Venture Northern Ireland by calling 92662 742, by visiting 2 Market Place, Lisburn or by ordering from TinyLife directly on 9081 5050.