Cycle campaign for vulnerable babies

Monday, 23 March 2009

28 years ago, Nick Williams was a premature baby in Southmead Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Now, he’s tandem cycling from Lands End to John o’Groats to raise money for babies in need.

The Precious Drops Campaign aims to set up a human milk bank at Southmead Hospital, to supply donor milk to babies whose mothers can’t supply their own milk.

If a mother's milk is unavailable for her own baby, milk donated by other mothers is the next best thing. Banked breast milk will benefit some of the most vulnerable special care babies.

However, an estimated £250,000 is needed to set up a milk bank and provide for running costs.

Nick, accompanied by friend Steve Williams (no relation) are raising money for the campaign through a sponsored cycle ride that left Land’s End on March 14, passing through Bristol on March 16. The pair aim to reach John O’Groats in eleven days.

Nick Williams and his twin brother Alistair were treated in Southmead Hospital’s NICU for over five weeks in 1980, after they were born six weeks early.

Nick Williams said: “I’ve always been aware of how grateful my family were for the care given at Southmead when Alistair and I were born. We benefited from the milk bank that was in place at the time, and are delighted to give something back by raising funds for this campaign.

“The challenge of riding end to end is one that Steve and I have talked about since university, and we’re really pleased that it’s going to happen at long last - we postponed plans for doing the ride last year due to the birth of Steve’s own baby.”

Precious Drops Campaign coordinator Marion Copeland said: “Having Nick and Steve lend their support to Precious Drops is a great boost for us - especially given Nick’s personal connection to the campaign. It’s initiatives like this that make all the difference to our fundraising efforts.

“We’ve got a range of fundraising initiatives underway for people who want to get involved. For the thrill-seekers out there - on March 28, it’s your chance to zipline down the sea walls of the Avon Gorge to raise money for the campaign,” she said.

A breast milk bank hasn’t existed in Bristol for over 20 years - the nearest breast milk banks are in Southampton, Birmingham and Oxford. The Bristol Milk Bank will be based at Southmead’s Maternity Unit and will supply donor breast milk to babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units at Southmead and St Michael’s in Bristol (run by United Bristol Healthcare Trust).

The milk, collected from healthy screened mothers who have a plentiful supply, is then tested and heat-treated.