Western Isles parents raise funds for charities close to their hearts

Pictured are Joanne Murray, Karen Macdonald, Catherine Gillies and Karen's daughter, Lauren (aged two).
Pictured are Joanne Murray, Karen Macdonald, Catherine Gillies and Karen's daughter, Lauren (aged two).

To mark what was to be the due date of their baby this year, a Western Isles couple decided to take steps to help local families like themselves who have lost babies, and raised money for two special charities close to their hearts

Karen and Norman Macdonald who live in Harris very sadly lost their baby in December 2011. The baby was due on May 5, 2012, and the couple wanted to mark the day by fundraising for two charities; SiMBA (Simpson’s Memory Box Appeal) and Tommy’s Charity.

They also wanted to purchase a bench in memory of their baby, and to donate something to the Maternity Ward in Western Isles Hospital.

The aim of SiMBA is to provide precious Memory Boxes to Maternity Units, so that any parents who suffer the loss of a baby can find comfort from the Box.

The Memory Box acts as a treasure chest of priceless mementoes for parents, containing such items as cards for hand and footprints, a lock of hair, a blanket of love and birth acknowledgement certificate. Smaller Memory Boxes are also available in recognition of babies that have died in the earlier stages of pregnancy.

Leading the way in maternal and foetal research in the UK, Tommy’s Charity aims is to give every baby the best chance of being born healthy, by funding medical research into the causes of premature birth, stillbirth and miscarriage.

Karen explained: “We held fundraising events in Harris on May 5, which was my due date. We had a fun day with a bouncy castle, ice cream and a baking stall as well. My husband and three of his friends (Richard Macleod, Thomas Tyrell and Murdo Morrison) also did a cycle from Stornoway to Harris to raise money. We ended up with a total of £2,100.”

Karen, who was the first recipient of a Memory Box in the Western Isles, added: “The SiMBA charity is very close to my heart as it provides nice keep-sakes for mums who have lost babies. The Memory Boxes are such a good idea and really do help.”

A total of £1,000 has gone to Tommy’s Charity and £500 will go to SiMBA. The couple are also getting a bench made, which will be placed in the cemetery at Sandwick in memory of the couple’s baby. As a gesture to the Maternity Department, Karen and Norman are using the rest of the funds to purchase an ice machine for the Maternity Department in Western Isles Hospital.

Karen and her daughter Lauren (aged two) recently visited Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway to present staff with a cheque for the funds raised.

Linking to SiMBA has been very much supported by local Maternity staff, who feel the Memory Boxes will be extremely valuable to parents who suffer the loss of a baby. SiMBA supplies the Memory Boxes when requested by Maternity Departments, and local areas are asked to fundraise annually for the charity.

NHS Western Isles Midwifery Team Leader, Catherine Gillies, said: “The pain of leaving hospital with empty arms, having lost your much loved baby before, during or after birth, is indescribable. But the grief and sense of loss is intensified by the fact that there are often very few items to remember your baby by. That’s why the Memory Boxes are so important.”

Local Midwife Joanne Murray added: “Memories are very precious and have to be right and positive. The Memory Boxes will help to cherish the special memories. We would like to thank Karen and Norman, and their daughters Rebecca (aged six) and Lauren (aged two), for their generous donation.”