Since saying a heartbreaking goodbye to her baby girl, Maisie Hope, Leanne Nellis has set up a charity in her memory, raised over £57,000 and has had a career change so she can work alongside those who cared for her little girl at The James Cook University Hospital.
Leanne gave birth to Maisie one day past her due date in October 2011. Maisie was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and was taken to the Middlesbrough hospital’s neonatal unit where she was looked after for four days.
Leanne and her family were determined for Maisie to not be forgotten and set up a small charity called Maisies Hope to raise money to fund a cooling mat for the unit.
She said: “When Maisie was born the unit only had one cooling mat and it was in use, so they had to borrow one from another hospital. We set out to buy another one and managed to do that in three months thanks to the support we received from family, friends, companies and people we’d never met.”
The support from everyone over the last 10 years has been overwhelming and we’re shocked that people still continue to get in touch.”
Despite raising an incredible amount in Maisie’s memory, Leanne wanted to do more and joined the neonatal unit as a volunteer, offering other bereaved parents the opportunity to talk to another parent who had been through a similar experience.
Alongside this she took it upon herself to support the unit’s annual remembrance service and then following the addition of Maisie’s little sisters, Mollie and Matilda, she set out her goal of becoming a neonatal nurse herself.
“I had no healthcare experience, I worked in an opticians after leaving university,” she said.
“Until we had Maisie I’d never heard of a neonatal unit, I didn’t know what they did or who they helped. When my youngest turned one I enrolled onto an access healthcare course at Middlesbrough College and then went to Teesside University and qualified in September 2021.”
“I still can’t believe how life can change so much. We’ve tried to make a positive out of the situation. I feel privileged to work here and to be helping other parents who I can relate to as I know the neonatal journey.”
‘Extremely grateful and proud’
Lynne Paterson, clinical director for neonatology at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Leanne is a complete star and we are so fortunate to have her working on our unit.
“Having seen things from the other side, she is in a perfect position to empathise with our families and also to care for them in her own special way, which families are really appreciate of.
“She is also a leading light in fundraising for the department and quietly goes about raising thousands of pounds in memory of her daughter. For both of these things, we are extremely grateful and proud of Leanne.”
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