18/03/2014 07:44 GMT | Updated 17/05/2014 06:59 BST

Small Babies, Big Lives; The Charity Helping the NHS Save Lives

Harriet Laura Amy Leah was born at 37 weeks on 16th November 2012 by c-section. "She was laying very awkwardly" explains her mum Zena, "doing the splits and her cord was presenting, had my waters gone the cord would have been the first thing out and she would have most probably suffocated"


After delivery the baby "seemed OK but at a few hours old her colour started to deteriorate from a healthy pink to a blue/grey colour". Little Harriet Laura was taken into the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at the Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley and given some oxygen to help her breathe. At around 36 hours old the nurses in the SCBU decided she needed extra help and she was transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St Georges Hospital in Tooting.  

It was at this point, the anxious parents first encountered Ickle Pickles as the charity's recently purchased ventilator was used by The London Neonatal Transfer Service to transport Harriet from Bromley to St George's. 

"We have not heard of Ickle Pickles before" says Harriet's mum with a grateful smile, "we learned that Ickle Pickles started working with the LNTS team in October 2012 and have purchased 3 SOPHIE ventilators so now all 3 of their ambulances have the ability to move critically sick babies providing the same types of ventilation that are available on the Neonatal unit.


This came as a big surprise to the new parents, "we were stunned to discover that vital equipment like this is funded by charities. You just assume it's all covered by the NHS, it's not until you have reason to call upon services like these that you discover that it's not".


Harriet responded immediately to treatment at St Georges and was well enough to return to the PRUH on 21st November. "She is happy, healthy and walking..".


Fresh from last week's annual SW London Black tie Ball, Ickle Pickles' founder Rachael Marsh finds time to speak about the much loved charity's humble beginning and the special place it has in the heart of so many eternally indebted mums and dads. 


Q Harriet's parents have told me about how your equipment helped save baby's life.


A Harriet was transferred by the London Neonatal Transfer Service (LNTS) to St George's. LNTS is a service that we have been supporting for over 18 months. We have bought some equipment for their ambulances to help improve the quality of care of babies in transit. St George's is also a hospital that we have donated equipment too so it is likely that Harriet was treated with some equipment purchased by

the Ickle Pickles. It is wonderful to know that the equipment will have helped make a difference.


At Ickle Pickles, fundraisers, their families and friends can all choose where their money goes, the equipment needs have to be agreed to in line with the NNUs but

whether they raise enough funds to buy an incubator (circa £15,000), a

breast pump (circa £600-£1000) or a special chair for giving their baby Kangaroo cuddles - these are all tangible and people love to know where their money has



Q How do you feel about progress so far?


A We have introduced an Ambassador role where with our support, a parent can fundraise for their local NNU through us. This model has been developing

with our Ambassador, Lorraine Blackburn in Portsmouth, who sadly

lost her son Owen after a 3 month battle when he was born prematurely at

26 weeks.

Lorraine had done some independent fundraising for the NNU at the

Queen Alexandra, Cosham before joining us voluntarily and has been

employed by us since Aug 2012. Her fundraising success has been

amazing and in 2013 with events that she organised and had involvement

in she raised £100,000 so the model is working!

In 2014 we are expanding our Ambassador network to other areas around

the country and hope to hit the £1 million target by the end of the

year. A tall order but we would love to get to this point from humble

beginnings in 2009.


Q You started the charity after a similar experience with your baby


A Yes, the aim of the charity initially was for myself and my husband to give

something back, repay a debt of gratitude for the care our boy Charlie

received in his first few weeks, he is 6 years old and a very sweet and

caring boy with lots of energy! He had Glue ear as a result of his

prematurity which delayed his speech development a bit but he is

catching up and is now in Year 1 at school and loving life. We are

blessed with such a fantastic little boy.