A Stornoway family has set out to turn their own heart-breaking story into a ray of light for parents, when a baby arrives prematurely.
Island businesses and individuals are being asked to support a fundraising effort which will help new parents at Western Isles Hospital to cope with the early arrival of tiny babies.
The Matthew Woodman Foundation is being set up by Kim Woodman of Greenock in memory of her two-year-old son Matthew, who died suddenly during a visit home to family in Stornoway last August.
Kim told welovestornoway.com today (Monday January 6th): “We were at home with my parents when Matthew’s heart started racing and he stopped breathing.
“He was rushed to hospital by ambulance, but it was impossible to save him and he died at Western Isles Hospital. It turned out that he had an undiagnosed heart defect, an aortic coarctation, or narrowing of the aorta.”
Matthew’s sudden death hit the family hard, but when donations started to come in from Kim’s workplace – including a £500 grant from her union – she started to think about ways in which she could turn the tragedy into something good.
“Matthew was born at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley and, although he was a big healthy baby, I couldn’t help noticing some of the tiny premature babies who were there.
“After he passed away I thought we could do something to help parents who suddenly had a tiny baby to look after, and that’s where the idea for Ray of Light boxes came from.”
Baby boxes provided by the Scottish Government to new mums are full of useful items, but even the newborn clothes are too big for premature babies. To fill the gap, Kim has invented a box which contains three outfits, hats and gloves, a blanket and some muslins – all sized to fit the tiniest premature baby.
Kim said: “Our favourite item is a crocheted octopus, which has been accepted for use inside a baby incubator – it’s soft and tiny, and the legs resemble the umbilical cord, so it gives premature newborns something to hold on to that reassures them.”
All the items provided are unisex, brand new and white – a colour chosen so that it helps medical professionals spot if the baby is jaundiced, as well as because it looks bright and fresh.
The first boxes have already been delivered to the maternity unit at the Royal Alexandra, and a delivery for Western Isles hospital is planned next. Kim’s family are Fergusons from Lochganvich in Achmore, so she has many relations in Lewis and frequently comes home for visits.
She has set about fundraising, with a charity night set for May 23rd at Cruden Hall in Greenock.
A raffle, auction, music and games will help raise the money needed to buy and fill the boxes.
Kim said: “To make the boxes works out at about £38 per box, which is quite a lot when you may be doing 10 or more a week. We’ve set up the charity to make boxes for maternity units in Stornoway and Paisley, and we welcome any help people can give us with prizes, auction items or donations.
“From next month we’re starting a service where you can personalise a box by donating its cost and leaving a wee note to the new parents inside the lid.”
The pictures show Kim delivering one of the Ray of Light boxes to the Royal Alexandra maternity unit, and with her mum Jacqueline Macleod (left) of Stornoway and cousin Nicole Ferguson, packing up boxes ready for delivery.