Travel agencies’ fundraising drive for Wirral hospital that saved colleague’s ‘miracle’ boy

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A travel agency manager whose baby was born two months prematurely has helped raise £4,600 for the Wirral neonatal unit which helped save the life of her ‘miracle’ boy.

Natalie Price, 36, and her eight strong team at the Birkenhead branch of Hays Travel, recently joined forces with the travel firm’s Bebington store to fundraise for the neonatal unit at Wirral Women and Children’s Hospital as part of the company’s annual charity challenge.

Hays Travel North West, which is the UK’s fastest growing independent travel agency, asks each of its stores to generate at least £500 for a chosen charity every year.

Natalie, along with Sarah Duncan, manager of Bebington Hays Travel, chose to raise money for the neonatal unit, which is based on the Arrowe Park Hospital site, as a personal thank you to the hospital team. Their collective fundraising drive included sponsored walks, cake bakes and office ‘pink pyjama’ days.

Natalie, who is married to Paul and lives in Prenton, Wirral, was supported by the unit four years ago when, at 28 weeks pregnant, a hospital scan revealed her unborn baby had stopped growing. Concerned for the health of both mum and baby, doctors made the decision to perform a caesarean nine weeks early and Jude was born weighing just 2lb 13oz.

Natalie said it was thanks to the neonatal unit that she and her husband were able to cope with the initial shock and worry of having a premature baby.

She said: “The first few days after Jude was born were a blur and it was a bit touch and go but the unit staff were all amazing. Jude was just so tiny and at first, we couldn’t even hold him – he wasn’t much bigger than his little Peter Rabbit bunny.

“Even for 31 weeks, Jude was very small and because of his size, he had a lot of breathing problems as well as a collapsed lung. He had to stay on the unit for eight weeks, until he got to what would have been his actual due date and during this time he had to learn how to breathe, swallow and feed.

“I went in every day and would be there for 12 hours at a time, sometimes they had to make me go home – leaving Jude was really hard and I couldn’t have done it without the nurses and the team on the unit.”

After two months, Natalie and Paul were finally able to bring their baby son home and four years on and Jude has just reached another milestone, his first day at school.

Natalie said she felt extremely proud seeing Jude in his new school uniform; “He is so independent, he just waved and didn’t look back. Jude has such a character and is a real comedian – he sees photos of himself in the incubator and says he was like a baby chicken!

“He is still small for his age and has croup which he needs treatment for but other than that he is healthy and a total whirlwind. Jude is most definitely my little miracle.”

Hays Travel Bebington store manager Sarah Duncan – who along with her team raised £2,000 of the final £4,600 total by completing a 10-mile fun walk dressed as babies – said the success showed just how vital the neonatal unit was to the Wirral community.

Mum of two Sarah, 47, who lives in Eastham, said: “My assistant manager’s best friend Nicci Rowley also had a baby prematurely at the neonatal unit. Little Isabella is now two and has been signed off completely by the hospital but, with Natalie’s experience as well, it really brought it home just how many people rely on this service.

“On our sponsored walk, people were coming up to us to say their child had been helped by the unit. It is just so vital to our area and close to the hearts of so many people.”

Impressed by their fundraising efforts, Hay Travel North West Managing Director Don Bircham topped up the amounts raised by the Birkenhead and Bebington stores, meaning a grand total of £4,600 was presented to the neonatal unit.

Don said: “All our branches totally embrace the annual Hays Travel fundraising challenge and with such a personal connection to the Wirral Neonatal unit, it was a pleasure to be able to add to the fantastic total raised by the Birkenhead and Bebington teams.”

Victoria Burrows, Head of Fundraising for Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said the money raised by the Hays Travel team would now make a real difference to the unit.

“We are so grateful to all the staff at Hays Travel Birkenhead and Bebington and company directors for their amazing support.

“Our neonatal unit cares for some of the most vulnerable and fragile babies, whose parents are often going through the most difficult time of their lives. This generous donation will make a huge difference not only by contributing to medical equipment but also helping to improve the ward environment to make parents’ neonatal journey that little bit more comfortable.”

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