When Melinda Cruz was pregnant with her second son, 10 years ago, she was already nervous about the possibility of his being born prematurely. She had already been through his earlier brother’s premature birth – a six week early arrival, to be exact – and she knew there was a distinct possibility it could happen again.
And it did. This time, it wasn’t 6 weeks early.
It was thirteen.
And as she says, it was when her life changed.
“It hurt so much to do this to a second baby. [His] being so premature put me into a whole new unknown world.”
When she was discharged from the hospital’s program for early babies she searched for ways to stay in contact with other parents and the health system, because, of course, she wanted both reassurance on what she was going through, to be able to discuss any issues and concerns, and to have the support of others in a similar situation. As she says:
“Finding nothing Australia wide, I approached the head of the unit with an idea to assist other families who where going through a similar journey and give back to the hospital that gave me my children.”
So what happened next? For most people, perhaps a support group would have been formed, contact would have been maintained, and that would have been that.
Not with Melinda at the helm… and not with another baby on board, it seemed!
Instead, one of Australia’s most innovative special enterprise came to life – which this year (2015) along with her second son, celebrates ten years of life, love and a lot of laughter, tears and achievements.
That’s when Miracle Babies was formed. “I, along with a group of founding mothers, set out alongside the hospital to work out how we could change the experience for new families experiencing the birth of a premature, sick baby.”
“In ten years, we went from a small local group at one hospital, to the largest national charity in this space operating in very tertiary hospital in the country and countless more. Our programs are available for families from a threatened pregnancy, to their time in hospital and then once home until the children are 6 years old.
We are also the peak consumer body for premature research, input into health and education.”
A premature baby, perhaps; a premature vision – perhaps not. Melinda says her vision has always been to ensure no family going through this traumatic journey has to do it alone. She sees it as non negotiable that they have access to support, the best care, information, resources and a connection to others.
Every year more than 48,000 babies are born premature or sick. It is a massive task, and one that needs to be available year after year, not only for a few families but for all families as their miracles grow. Unfortunately having an early or sick baby does not end when you leave the hospital.
Sometimes physical and emotional issues can last a lifetime, and for the entire family, Miracle Babies will be there for them for as long as they need.
Melinda thinks more needs to be done to understand the long term implications of a baby who is born early or sick. GP’s, specialists, carers and teachers need to be educated further as babies grow into children and adults.
She also feels that past patients will play a bigger role in the direction of overall health, as partnerships have been missing a piece. “In our space we are working with clinicians on better ways to partner with consumers in the direction of healthcare and research.”
She also feels very strongly that within the NFP sector, there must be a change in mindset about the whole area. “My personal belief is; there needs to be a mindset change – these are organisation who have the ability and expertise to make serious change in our world, yet common belief is that they should do it on a budget, keeping headcounts, wages, fundraising and admin costs. That all funds donated should go towards the cause – yet no part of running a charity isn’t for the cause.
Fundraising has always been our biggest issue. The founders cam form a common experience and built Miracle Babies on drive, passion and first hand experiences of a gap in the health space.
It only takes $67 per baby to do what we do but there are 48,000 of them every year.
She is a driven women who is driven by C words – create, contribute, change – There is no doubt that Mel and Miracle Babies has changed the lives of parents and babies around Australia and now – the world.