Dunedin Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was even busier than usual today as World Prematurity Day was celebrated.

The actual day is tomorrow but it was brought forward to give the greatest number of staff, parents and supporters the opportunity to be involved.

Knitting for babies was donated, a cheque for the unit was handed over, pamper packs for mums were distributed and a morning tea of donated baking was enjoyed by all.

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Heather Fowler, from the Riversdale Lions Club, made the trip to Dunedin to present a big box of premature-sized knitted clothing.

A premature baby herself 74 years ago, Heather led a team of knitters who made hats, cardigans and booties.

NICU Charge Nurse Manager Juliet Manning was thrilled: “It’s fantastic because babies born preterm are small and most families will be knitting away at normal newborn size things. But babies in the unit do get dressed when they’re still quite little and it’s great to have the nice warm clothes they can use.”

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Representatives of the Children's Recreational Enterprise Support Trust (CREST) handed over a cheque for $500.

Chairman Rodger Barrett and Treasurer Hilary Trbuhovich said the donation was in memory of Bill Mattson who spend many years driving the trust’s children’s train at Dunedin Botanic garden.

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Someone who knows exactly how the parents of pre-term babies feel is Melanie Gutschlag whose son Ollie is a graduate of Dunedin NICU.

Today she distributed lovely pamper packs to mums including Kathryn Moses, of Invercargill, whose tiny son arrived is a big hurry a week ago.

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Kathryn and her husband Kereru have been ever-present in the unit since their son was born weighing 1.3kg at 30 weeks’ gestation.

“NICU really promote being hands on so we’ve been shown how to change his nappy and we do skin to skin cuddle – as much as he will let us.

“We’re learning everything we can from the nurses. The scariest thing for me is how to hold him.”

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The little fighter, who is doing “really well”, has yet to be named, although he does have a nickname, says Kathryn.

“His nickname is Turbo because in the scans he just wouldn’t stop wiggling. And then sure enough he kicked his way out.”

Dunedin NICU admits approximately 350 babies per year ranging from those born prematurely from 23 weeks gestation through to full term babies requiring intensive care. 

Our unit is funded for 16 cot spaces, 5 of which are intensive care spaces, the remainder range from high dependency and special care through to transition to home. 

We are the tertiary Neonatal Unit for the Southern district and also accept babies from outside our district when other units are at capacity. 

We have a transport and retrieval team available 24/7 to cover our district’s geographical area and provide transfers to other units as required. 

At any time, about half of our families are from outside the greater Dunedin area.