Parents of critically ill babies can now stay close to hospital for free

PUBLISHED: 15:16 17 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:16 17 October 2018

Isla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

Isla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

Kemp Family

Parents whose babies are being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the county’s flagship hospital will now be able to stay close by for free thanks to a fundraising appeal.

Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017Isla Kemp is home for Christmas after being born 3 months early. Pictured with her parents, Bethany and Simon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

McKee House, a five-bedroom property just two minutes walk from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), provides accommodation for parents while their baby is often very sick.

It provided a base for parents of premature or unwell babies, receiving specialist, life-saving care at NICU for a fee of £20 a stay, be that a night or a week.

But a £15,000 appeal launched by the hospital charity now means stays will be free for a year, in part thanks to Bethany and Simon Kemp, from Norwich, who raised £7,766.50 to thank staff who cared for their daughter, Isla.

Little Isla weighed less than a bag of sugar when she was born by emergency caesarean section last year, almost 14 weeks early.

Isla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp FamilyIsla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

Mrs Kemp had suffered a placental abruption - where the placenta had come away from the womb, causing a bleed and a clot to form.

“For some women, they can go on to have a full-term pregnancy, but in my case too much had come away,” Mrs Kemp, who works in a nursery, said.

MORE: ‘How do you say thanks, when they saved my baby’s life?’ - Born 14 weeks early, baby Isla proves a fighter as she celebrates her first Christmas

Mrs Kemp said: “When they wheeled me through I remember screaming ‘this isn’t right, it’s too soon’.”

She was later told from the moment medics made the decision to completing the operation was just 12 minutes.

Isla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp FamilyIsla Kemp in the NICU. Picture: Kemp Family

Isla was rushed straight to the NICU where she was put straight on a ventilator.

Mrs Kemp said: “When I woke up two hours later, she was gone, I practically dragged myself down the corridor to see her.”

Weighing just 1lb 12oz Isla was then placed in an incubator, where she would fight for her life.

Isla had chronic lung disease, seizures, bleeds on the brain, holes in her heart, and pulmonary interstitial emphysema - a collection of gases outside of the normal air passages.

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

She spent 79 days being treated on NICU before she was well enough to go home and has thrived ever since.

“Going up there was like a full time job, it was really strange,” Mrs Kemp said. And the couple organised music night Baby Rocks to raise money and say thanks.

The appeal also received £1,000 from a charitable trust in the county and other donations,

Mrs Kemp said “We are so pleased that the Baby Rocks concert has helped the charity reach the target.

“We lived close to the hospital when Isla was in NICU but we made friends with others who stayed in McKee House and know how important it was for them to be close to their baby.

“It is fantastic to think that new parents will be able to stay at McKee House for free – and have one less thing to worry about at such a difficult time.”

Clare and Paul Doe, from Ipswich, knew just what it was 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.

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

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.

“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.”

NNUH head of fundraising Louise Cook said: “We are so grateful to everyone who helped us reach the £15,000 target this year.

“There can be huge costs involved in a hospital stay –particularly for people who don’t live close to the hospital - travel expenses, food, childcare, not to mention lost wages, and offering McKee House for free, we hope this reduces the further stress of finding a place to stay.

“Some of our babies can be in hospital for weeks or even months at a time and McKee House provides not only a room to stay but a much-needed opportunity for them to rest away from the pressures of the unit.

“Having secured funding for one year, we hope there’s a business or organisation which can help us to keep this going in future years.”

To discuss the project, contact Mrs Cook on 01603 287107 or email

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