Celebrating two years of helping families stay connected with their poorly babies

Jo Astbury with cakes celebrating vCreate's birthday. She is pictured wearing purple scrubs and holding a tray of chocolate cupcakes with icons of baby's faces on them. Behind her is a reception desk with flowers on.
Jo Astbury with some of the cakes celebrating vCreate's birthday

Published on 5 August 2021

A service that has helped almost 200 families stay connected to their babies in hospital is celebrating its second anniversary.

Staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford use vCreate to send photos and videos to parents when they can’t be physically with their babies.

And with visiting restricted because of the coronavirus pandemic, families say it has been a lifeline.

Mum Sarah Wright said: “It was my lifeline when I got ill and couldn’t come in for a few days – it felt like forever.

“It was also the first thing we checked when we woke up to see what our baby had done overnight.”

Fellow mum Kerri Clark said: “I wouldn’t have been able to cope without vCreate, especially through the 10 days I wasn’t able to see Frankie due to Covid.

“I am extremely grateful and feel so lucky the team do this for parents.”

Since launching in the summer of 2019, a total of 3,444 photos and 1,776 videos have been sent to 257 families, helping them stay up to date with their babies’ progress.

Staff send good morning or good night messages to families, and can add stickers and text to images. The photos and videos can be downloaded and saved to look back on in future.

Mum Joanna Dixon said: “vCreate really helped me feel connected with Zac when I wasn't able to be with him.

“I also loved how creative some of the nurses were with their shots and captions and I will treasure the photos and videos we have forever.”

Dad Chris Jones added: “In the six weeks I wasn't allowed to see my little girl it was quite simply a lifeline for me.

“The nurses, who are the true heroes in this situation, really made every effort to post regular updates.

“It is too hard to imagine what it would have felt like not to have the vCreates.”

Steph Ende, who is one of the vCreate champions on the unit, said: “It has been great having this new tool to communicate with parents.

“It’s really fun to be able to be creative with it and make cute or funny videos or photos. It’s become part of our day-to-day routine.”

Fellow vCreate champion Jo Astbury said: “As a unit, we are constantly trying to make everything we do here as family friendly as possible – vCreate is one instance where we have been able to introduce something new which has instantly made a huge improvement to our babies’ parents’, siblings’ and other relatives’ neonatal experience.”

Parents regularly nominate staff for the NICU superheroes award run by vCreate, and Steph was named the 2021 vCreate Champion of the Year.

The service is funded by the Tiny Toes Appeal, part of East Kent Hospitals Charity.

Senior charity officer Dee Neligan said: “It’s wonderful to hear of the difference vCreate has made to families’ experience when their babies are in our NICU.

“When we initially funded the service we could not have predicted the impact a global pandemic would have but it has really shown the value of the service in helping families feel connected if they can’t be there in person.”