Grieving Christchurch couple raise money to refurbish parent rooms at Neonatal Unit

Thursday November 3, 2011

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of a Christchurch couple, families now have access to beautifully refurbished rooms at Christchurch Women’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where they can find comfort when they visit their babies.

The lives of Jenny and Rob Payne were touched by tragedy when their son, Leo, died in 2009 of multiple complications in Christchurch Women’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) aged three days old.

Jenny says Leo was born eight weeks premature, delivered by caesarean section and taken straight to NICU, where he was put on life support.

“He was lovingly and constantly cared for by the neonatal unit staff during that time,” Jenny says.

However, after three days Jenny and Rob made the heartbreaking decision to turn off life support.

“The first time we were able to hold him close was when he was dying in our arms,” Jenny says.

After Leo’s death a strong desire grew to honour his memory and celebrate his short life.

The couple decided to hold a charity ball and auction, raising $17,000, to refurbish the parent and waiting rooms at the unit.

At a special ceremony last week Christchurch Hospital Chaplain Hilary Barlow blessed the rooms and Jenny thanked Leo for “coming to stay for a little while, you changed our lives forever”.

Jenny says it meant a lot to her and Rob to have the rooms completed.

“We spent a large amount of time there and felt families needed a more comforting place where they could come together to regroup and try to gain strength at a heartbreaking time,” Jenny says.

She and interior designer, Desiree Sage, worked with Canterbury District Health Board Interior Designer for Site Redevelopment, Marcy Craigie, who designed an extensive refurbishment.

Marcy says the rooms are now almost unrecognisable compared to what they were.

“Parents have told me they are a haven of peace and comfort, which is all we hoped to achieve,” Marcy says.

“Thanks to Jenny and Rob’s heartfelt wishes and vision to commemorate the brief life of baby Leo, we have been able to provide wonderful recreational facilities to stressed parents requiring the phenomenal care and support of our Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit at CWH.”

The refurbishment included new paint, carpet, curtains, toys, play equipment, artwork, dining tables and chairs, as well as comfy squabs, cushions and family sized sofas. Many suppliers volunteered their time or services to the project, especially Anthony Campbell from Harvey Norman and Juljia Stanicich from Premium Flooring, who both arranged for major contributions from their respective companies.​

Page last reviewed: 12 February 2014