According to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing, 8.6% of babies were born before 37 weeks in 2013, with most of these births occurring at gestational ages of between 32 and 36 completed weeks. The average gestational age for all pre-term births was 33.3 weeks.
That is more than 26,000 premmie babies born in that year!
One small, volunteer-run organisation has been working tirelessly for the last ten years to support the families of, and raise awareness about these little battlers.
In 2007 Julia Toivonena gave birth to her son, Ronan, at 27 weeks gestation. She connected with another mother in the same situation and found there was not really anywhere for them to get support from each other. They decided to set up an online forum. No matter where families are located geographically, their website and support services are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In October 2012, with the goal of expanding the online support provided to families, L’il Aussie Prems Foundation became a registered charity. Today, the organisation provides support and services to families of premature and sick newborns online and in the community, raises awareness of premature birth and donates equipment to Australian NICU/SCN’s.
We’ve seen, from a distance, how challenging it is for families of sick newborns. Good friends of ours had their son, Alex, at 31 weeks gestation. He was tiny and weighed slightly over one kilo. Megan and James certainly had it tough as their son fought the battles that so many little premmies must face. Their strength and tenacity has been remarkable.
Despite his rocky start, Alex is now nearly three years old and one of the happiest little boys around. He even recently became a big brother.
Each April, L’il Aussie Prems Foundation invites Australia to help raise funds and awareness by wearing green for premmies. This special day was held yesterday, and parents all over the country were sharing pics on social media of their premmie child holding a photo of themselves when they were in hospital with the hashtag #greenforprems. Some of the pics are just so sweet!
This Thank You Thursday we give a shout out to Julia and the dedicated volunteers that make L’il Aussie Prems Foundation possible. Congratulations to you all on your 10th anniversary. And, of course, a big hug to all the parents and families out there who have had premmies and been through the challenges themselves.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.
P.S We’re also please to say that after experiencing a lengthy stay in the NICU in 2007, Ronan (the little premmie that started it all!) has worked hard to catch up and has grown into a healthy 10-year-old currently enjoying school.