Bittersweet memories flooded back when Rachel Taufer and her daughter Estelle visited Westmead Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) on Monday.
Next week marks a year since they both almost died.
Pregnancy complications forced the Northmead mum to go into labour at 26 weeks.
Afterwards, Mrs Taufer needed life-saving emergency surgery and spent three days in intensive care as her youngest child began the fight of her life in the NICU.
Of the 5500 babies born at Westmead Hospital each year, 1500 end up in NCIU.
“It was the most terrifying time of our lives,” Mrs Taufer said.
“But in my heart, I knew Estelle was a fighter. When I saw her for the first time when she was five-days-old, she started to cry. I reached out into the humidicrib and sang her a song as she held onto my finger for dear life. That’s when I knew she was going to be fine.”
Mrs Taufer wanted to give back to the NCIU and organised fundraisers, including a movie screening at Top Ryde City and twilight markets at Northmead Public School.
In partnership with the Miracle Babies Foundation, the $5000 raised was used to buy three kangaroo chairs for parents to cuddle and comfort their premature baby using skin-to-skin techniques.
Benefits include better respiration for the baby, improves the mother’s milk supply and promotes bonding.
“When you’ve got a premmie baby, there’s not a lot you can do other than pray and hope,” Mrs Taufer said.
“As parents of a premmie, you appreciate everything so much more. Every cuddle means everything. It was hard as I had three older children to consider and my eldest had just started school.”
The 44-bed NCIU previously had three old chairs.
“I was at the NCIU every day to do kangaroo care with Estelle and it was often hard to find a chair,” Mrs Taufer said.
“I was walking along the hallway one day when I heard a nurse talk about the need for more chairs. It was an amazing feeling to use these chairs. I’d never felt so calm, feeling Estelle’s heartbeat next to mine.”
The new chairs are inscribed with messages of hope for families in the NCIU.
Estelle will celebrate her first birthday next Tuesday.
She will have another party on what was supposed to her birthday on May 26.
“A lot has happened in the last year but it feels like yesterday,” Mrs Taufer said.
“She is so happy and full of life. Her prematurity will follow her, so we get excited when she hits every milestone. We’re so thankful for what the NICU staff did for us. The hospital is now a big part of our lives. It’s something positive we can do that came out of a hard time. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Estelle’s first birthday than this.”