N&N calls out for £15,000 sponsorship so parents of babies in intensive care can stay for free

PUBLISHED: 11:20 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:34 14 February 2018

Emily Bright and Keri Betts with baby Darcy. Photo: NNUH

Emily Bright and Keri Betts with baby Darcy. Photo: NNUH


It is one of the hardest moments a parent can face, with the life of their beloved newborn child out of their hands.

Darcy Bright on the neonatal intensive care unit. Photo: NNUHDarcy Bright on the neonatal intensive care unit. Photo: NNUH

And now donors are being urged to come forward to help provide vital free accommodation to parents of babies at an intensive care unit, so mums and dads can be close to their children as they fight for their lives.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) currently charges parents a nominal fee of £20 per stay at nearby McKee House, while their babies receive urgent medical care at its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

But the hospital’s fundraising manager, Louise Cook, hopes businesses will provide £15,000 per year sponsorship so McKee House can be provided to parents free of charge.

It is something Emily Bright, whose daughter Darcy is currently at the NICU, have found makes all the difference.

James Doe with parents Clare and Paul. Photo: NNUHJames Doe with parents Clare and Paul. Photo: NNUH

“McKee House has been invaluable during our time here on NICU and it has made the situation for us much less stressful that it would otherwise have been,” she said.

“It offers us somewhere to take a quick break but still just a few minutes away from the unity.

“We wish everybody could have the opportunity to stay here free of charge which is why we hope telling our story will help make this happen for parents in the future.”

NNUH fundraising manager Louise Cook said: “There can be huge costs involved in a hospital stay, travel expenses, food, childcare, not to mention lost wages, and by doing this we hope we can minimise the further stress of finding a place to stay.

Emily Bright and Keri Betts with baby Darcy. Photo: NNUHEmily Bright and Keri Betts with baby Darcy. Photo: NNUH

“Some of our babies can be in hospital for four weeks or even months at a time. Many of our families are from all over Norfolk and as far away as Essex.

“This distance places enormous stress on parents who are juggling the care of other children, as well as the financial pressures of taking time off work.”

However she said the five-bedroom McKee House, which is a two-minute walk away, means: “Parents spend much of their time by their baby’s bedside.

“The house provides not only a room to stay but a much-needed opportunity for them to rest and relax away from the pressures of the unit.”

James spent nine weeks on NICU. Photo: NNUHJames spent nine weeks on NICU. Photo: NNUH

Clare and Paul Doe, from Ipswich, know just what it is like to face such a difficult situation following the birth of their son, James.

James was born with cystic fibrosis and remained at the NICU for nine weeks.

Mrs Doe said: “We were lucky enough to be offered accommodation at McKee House whilst our baby was in NICU and, my goodness, were we grateful.

“As for all parents, this is a very traumatic time and we had the added worry about accommodation as we were so far from home.

Darcy Bright on the neonatal intensive care unit. Photo: NNUHDarcy Bright on the neonatal intensive care unit. Photo: NNUH

“The beauty of the apartment is the convenient location knowing our baby was a few minutes’ walk away and we could contact the nurses throughout the night via the internal phone system.

“Looking back, we think our time at the NICU and the flat and wonder what we would have done without it. It would have been a logistical nightmare and very expensive so we are so very pleased that this was available to us.”

Jon Rogers, 36, from Mulbarton, said: “My daughter Evelyn, who is now a healthy five-month-old, wasn’t in as much danger as many of the of the other poorly children as she was wheeled into the NICU.

“Once of the first people I met since officially becoming a dad was a lady. I found out she lived in Bedford, about 100 miles away.

‘The NNUH NICU is a hub for the east, the best place to be,’ they said. So they were

sent here.

“She had never been to Norwich before and had currently racked up over three weeks staying in the accommodation supplied, the McKee House. Her partner was doing a daily 200-mile round trip after work to be with them both.

“Without the option of that haven, I don’t know what they would have done to have stayed with their son.

“If I could afford it, I’d pay for the £15,000 in an instant. There must be someone who can afford it, and if that person spent 20mins in the unit, they’d understand that generosity would be the greatest gift they have ever brought themselves.”

Anyone interested in donating should contact Ms Cook on 01603 287107 or email

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