When nurses provided exceptional care to Cathy Griffiths and her baby son, Cathy was determined to find a way of saying thank you.

The birth of Jack, at just 33 weeks in Torbay Hospital in 2015 had been traumatic enough. But Jack was extremely ill when he was born, meaning he had to spend the first few weeks of his life in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).

Cathy, who works for Teva as a Healthcare manager covering the Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset areas, explained: “I experienced some negative issues at the hospital in the weeks and days leading up to Jack’s birth, so by the time he was delivered he was very poorly indeed.”

“He was rushed to the SCBU and remained there for the first four weeks of his life, said Cathy. “It was in the SBU that my experience with the hospital completely changed. The nurses were phenomenal and really did everything they could to help him – and me. They went out of their way to support us, the treatment and level of care that we got from them was just amazing and exceptional.

“It completely turned my experience with the hospital around, up to that point it had been awful and I’d felt very let down.”

Cathy later felt that her negative experience before the SCBU contributed to her developing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

She said:

"I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the SCBU nurses. While I was on the SCBU ward, I started to realise that there was a real lack of follow up care and support provided by the hospital for those parents going through the trauma of losing a baby. 

To hear someone being told that their baby might not make it through the night – or has died – is just beyond any words. It’s completely heart-breaking. And to see what some people went through with no support…I realised that the whole process and system was just not working."

When Jack came home, Cathy started to think of ways to give something back to the SCBU nurses and staff who had helped them. She also wanted to do something to support future parents who needed help. 

So, she set up the Jack Griffiths fundraising Facebook page, selling pre-loved baby clothes and items to raise money for the unit. 

The Facebook page soon captured people’s attention and imagination. Three years later, Cathy has two huge storage units full of baby and maternity items and also runs auctions – often with items donated by local businesses.

“Being able to give something back to the nurses who helped me through that difficult time has been very special,” said Cathy, who also has an eleven-year-old daughter, Chloe. “I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported this great initiative.”

So far, Cathy has raised funds to buy wall art to liven up the SCBU and make it feel less clinical, incubator blankets, incubator nests that wrap babies snug while in their incubators, incubator sensor monitors that provide light and music/sound, storage units and toys and books for the family room.

“It’s a real feelgood experience – we’ve bought all kinds of things to help the parents, babies and staff,” added Cathy. “I’ve also met other parents who’ve had similar experiences who’ve got touch. I’ve made some great friends.”

Cathy has so far raised just under £8,000 and her hard work has been recognised with two awards. In 2016, she was named Fundraiser of the Year, and in 2017 she won a Community Champion award for the region – both awards were run by her local newspaper, the Herald Express.

Jack recently celebrated his third birthday, and Cathy plans to continue her fundraising. She’d also like to press for changes to the current system, which she feels is letting parents down.

“The nurses who looked after Jack and I during those early weeks were so inspiring,” Cathy explained. “But can we challenge the service being offered? The amount of money being spent on medication and aftercare should instead be being spent on helping those parents beforehand, when they need the support the most.”

You can visit Jack’s fundraising page here