‘Beads of Courage’ celebrate unique and personal journeys of premature babies at Birmingham Women’s Hospital

Families being cared for and supported by the team on the specialist Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Birmingham Women’s Hospital are marking milestones during the journeys of their babies by creating a collection of colourful beads.

Fourteen-week-old Billy is one of more than 20 premature little ones currently on part of the Beads of Courage programme.

His mum, Charlotte Ranford, 30, from Lickey in Birmingham has been using the colourful beads to mark steps along his brave journey after he arrived at 24 weeks and five days, weighing just under 700g.

Every day she’s given a different coloured and shaped bead that is strung on a cord, each one marking a specific achievement or experience. For example, a yellow bead is given for an overnight stay; a red bead is for a blood transfusion and a pink bead which symbolises that they’ve received respiratory support.

A bigger bead is also given when a baby has reached a key milestone, such as their first bath or when they are discharged.

Now into his fourth month on the unit, the beads have been a source of support and a focus for Charlotte while caring for Billy. She said:

“My husband and I were immediately taken with the lovely idea. It’s become an active way of celebrating how far he has come and even on the bad days, I can look back with relief and feel positive.

“It’s actually become a nice hobby for me as well when I’ve got some time out and will be something to treasure with Billy for years to come.”

Dr Gemma Holder, Consultant Neonatologist at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, part of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We’ve been thrilled with the reaction from our families after first introducing the Beads of Courage initiative a couple of months ago. As well as it being a wonderful way to recognise their baby’s individual story on the unit, it actively engages parents in their baby’s care as they can visually see their daily treatment pattern.

“Our families have also told us they find it a beautiful keepsake.”

Originally starting in the USA, the Beads of Courage programme has been used across the world for many years to help children with a serious illness commemorate milestones they have achieved during their treatment.

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