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Little brothers, big love

Sometimes the littlest things take up the most room in your heart - a saying parents of babies born prematurely know all too well.

Otatara parents Kate and Richard Affleck have experienced the scary reality of having a baby arrive sooner than expected – not once, but twice.

Richard and Kate called the Ronald McDonald Family Room, Southland Hospital ‘home’ for nine nights when their first son Max was born five weeks early in 2015.

Then when their second son Ted was born seven weeks early last year, the Affleck’s returned to the Family Room for a further 20 nights.

Both Max and Ted were cared for in the neonatal unit of Southland Hospital, and received treatment for difficulty with their breathing, feeding and jaundice – common problems with premature babies.

Each time, the Affleck family were welcomed with open arms to the Family Room, a four-bedroom facility linked directly to the neonatal unit and children’s ward.

Understandably, Kate did not want to travel far from her little fighters.

“Although we knew the boys were being well cared for by the team in the neonatal unit, the thought of leaving them was not a nice one,” says Kate.

“If I was not able to stay at the Family Room, the only other option for me would be to go home, and come back every three hours day and night to establish feeding.”

The proximity of the Family Room to the boys in hospital was a lifeline, says Kate.

“It gives you a nice quiet space separate from the hospital that you can go – away from the beeping machines and what can sometimes be an overwhelming environment.”

At the same time, Kate says she was only ever a short walk away from her precious boys.

The friendly faces of the Family Room volunteers and supervisor Helen was also a comfort, says Kate.

And the delicious baking and kitchen facilities were amazing, as Kate says when she was eating well and feeling rested, the boys benefited.

The second stay for the Affleck family had the added challenge of caring for big brother Max, while juggling the daily needs of baby Ted in hospital.

Kate says the Family Room gave them a vital space to be together as a family unit.

“It gave us a place that as a family we could spend time together, most afternoons Max would come in with Richard or family and we could have dinner together and give us some sense of normality.”

What surprised the Affleck’s the most about the facility was people’s generosity – not only their monetary donations and donations of goods, but people’s gifts of time to help with the day-to-day running of the Family Room.

“It says a lot about our community,” says Kate.

Both Max and Ted showed that what they lacked in size, they made up for in strength, with the boys now thriving and creating a busy schedule for Mum and Dad.

Kate says on reflection, their time in the Family Room made them incredibly grateful to their community.

“It really did make what could have been a very stressful situation a whole lot easier.”


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