All I want for Christmas is... a heart machine for these tiny NICU babies

Babies’ tiny hearts are often challenged by many of the issues associated with prematurity or illness. But the current heart machine used at the Neonatal unit at the Rotunda maternity hospital in Dublin has reached the end of its life. Staff there are hoping for a Christmas miracle

Afif El -Khuffash works with the small population of the NICU unit at the Rotunda hospital every day. He says it is one of the most amazing places to work.

"It's been such a rewarding speciality dealing with babies who come to us critically unwell. Watching them come through their illness is something very special. The very premature babies are with us for a long time. Seeing what the parents go through, the high-stress environment, how tiring it is, I am so lucky I get to help."

Having high-quality equipment is an essential part of any NICU. The current clinical echocardiography machine in the hospital has reached the end of its life and the information and readings given are now very limited.


It is a vital piece of machinery for some of the most vulnerable patient populations in the country.

Every year over 1200 babies require highly specialised care in this unit. Some of those babies can be as small as 400 grams and born extremely prematurely.


Afif El -Khuffash says that their care can be very complex. "We rely on vital information from our monitoring equipment to guide their care — improving their clinical course maximizes outcome.

"Using this machine, we can look at how the heart is working, use it to decide which medication best suits the situation and monitor response to treatment. We carry out approximately 750 scans every year as this information is vital and individual to every baby and clinical situation."

Because there is no government funding available, Afif El -Khuffash and his colleagues decided to set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for a new machine. He says the response was overwhelming.

"We've been so pleasantly surprised by the response from the Irish public. One of the representatives from the fundraising site said that in their annual metric, the Irish public comes out on top in terms of their generosity in global terms.


It has been so heartwarming to read the messages from both parents and those who haven't had a child. It is really astounding and a testament to the generosity. One 9-year-old girl donated her birthday money to our cause. I shed a tear reading the message. She got €10 for her birthday and asked her mum to pass it onto us. She told her mother, we can't have those babies going without this machine, especially coming up to Christmas."

Some of the messages are equally heartwarming.

"I donated because I attended the Rotunda for the birth of my first baby and I'm currently attending the Rotunda for my second pregnancy. The staff are beyond amazing and the care and treatment are second to none," writes Orla Smith

"My little boy was born in July 2017 in the Rotunda at 35 weeks weighing 3 pounds 5oz with a large (VSD) heart condition. The doctors, nurses, and staff were amazing with us. He was later brought to Crumlin and got open-heart surgery. We are so grateful to have a happy, loveable crazy two-year-old that brightens everyone's days all thanks to the Rotunda," writes Nadine Coakley.

But there was a lot of criticism for the government too and the lack of government support for such a critical machine.

"My husband was born in the Rotunda. I work in the US as a Labour and Delivery Registered Nurse, and I know the importance of this equipment. It saddens me that the Irish government cares more about their state-run television rubbish than the lives of their children," said Kelly Doherty.

Amanda Boyd agreed. "Heartbreaking that it has come down to this to help children stay alive. Money for printers, money for mass immigration, money for NGO's, money for RTE, money to send abroad for aid but nothing for our own children, it's a national disgrace."


The team is hoping to raise €76,000 and you can donate here. 

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