Dereham mum says her mental health was overlooked when baby had major heart surgery
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
The mother of a little boy who had to have major heart surgery soon after his birth is joining a campaign for better mental health care for parents of seriously ill babies.
Vicki Moore's son Elijah was born in September 2014 with a condition called tetralogy of fallot, or four structural abnormalities in his heart.
Happily Elijah's operation at the age of six months was a complete success and he has now been discharged.
But the trauma took its toll on Miss Moore, who lives in Dereham with partner and Elijah's dad Greg Cockerill, and earlier this year she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She said she punished herself by not eating or abusing medication to make her feel like she was in control and was terrified her baby would be taken away from her as she felt she was an unfit mother.
'I received no kind of aftercare and I believe this is ultimately what led to my diagnosis,' she said.
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She has teamed up with the charity Little Miracles UK who have launched a petition calling for more funding and resources for mental health screening and support for all neonatal units in the UK with after care and professional support for as long as it is needed and peer-to-peer support.
'Even though this chapter is over the effects are long lasting for the parents,' said Miss Moore.
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She said according to the a report published last year by the charity Bliss, 41 percent of neonatal units said that parents had no access to a trained mental health worker.
'I can corroborate this,' she said. 'I was not offered any support or care, during our admission, stay or discharge from NICU.
'One in nine babies is born needing neonatal care in England, that's one in nine families that need care too.
'It is not just your baby in NICU, you are in there with them, and it takes its toll. There is a reason why the statistics are so high for mental illness when you have had a baby in NICU. It is one of the most anxious and traumatic times of your life. After most traumatic events or incidents isn't counselling on offer? So why is the mental health of the NICU parent less of a priority?'
Miss Moore has found a source of support through other parents online and started a blog in March where she shares her story and progress with a growing following.
She is also a Huffington Post parent blogger, Up All Hours resident Imperfect Parent Mummy and Little Me Brand Ambassador and has built up a large social media following on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
A statement from the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital said support was provided for families who spend time on NICU through a variety of initiatives.
Family and Baby (FAB) groups which are facilitated by the Bliss Family Care Co-ordinator and operate in the community, are available to provide continuing support for families following their discharge from NICU.
Dr David Booth, Chief of Division for Women and Children's Services at NNUH, said: 'We are very sorry to hear that this patient had difficulties following the birth of her baby. We recognise that this can be a challenging time and work closely with new parents to ensure that we signpost or refer those in need of support to a range of services.
'Patients with postnatal depression require specialist input from mental health services and the patient's GP, health visitor or midwife can make referrals to these services.'