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‘So many people are affected by this’: The heartbroken baby loss parents who helped make a bereavement suite at Raigmore Hospital a reality

Thomas and Max are just two of the little ones who didn't make it - but they will be remembered at the Heather Suite.

Donald and Lyndsey Mateer helped raise money for the new suite. Image Sandy McCook/DC Thomson
Donald and Lyndsey Mateer helped raise money for the new suite. Image Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

When Lyndsey and Donald Mateer lost their baby, it set them on a mission.

Little Maximus – Max – was stillborn due to a knot in his cord.

Robert and Emma MacLellan suffered similar loss when their son Thomas died at birth due to a heart defect.

The support these bereaved parents – and others – received in their moment of heartbreak inspired them to help others.

Facing the trauma of miscarriage or stillbirth is devastating whatever the surroundings.

But it was felt for those hearing the news, a dedicated, private area for mothers and fathers and their families was needed.

A campaign secured £65,000 to create a bespoke bereavement suite in Ward 10 of Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

Now, after being delayed by the pandemic, the Heather Suite has finally opened.

Many who fundraised through the charity SiMBA attended a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the suite and accompanying ‘quiet room’.

New suite is a place of quiet and calmness

The facility is a place of quiet and calmness, full of soft furnishing and relaxing music.

Yesterday, it also had cake provided by local supporter Harry Gow.

The suite is soundproofed to avoid bereaved parents hearing sounds associated with live births in the maternity wing.

A ‘cuddle cot’ allows mothers and fathers to spend time with and say goodbye to their stillborn child.

One in every four pregnancies in the UK ends in miscarriage and one in every 250 results in stillbirth.

SiMBA supports families whose baby has died at any stage of pregnancy or around the time of birth.

The Heather Suite will be used by parents who have suffered miscarriage or stillbirths. Image Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Since being set up in 2005, it has also gifted more than 60,000 baby memory boxes, including 1,000 to Raigmore.

Vanessa Rhazali, head of fundraising and communications for SiMBA, said: “The parents felt there needed to be a special, bespoke room for when they were getting either very sad news about a pregnancy or at the stage of stillbirth.

“The room offers a lot of home comforts and a semblance of normality at such a horrific, traumatic time.”

“It is all thanks to the tireless support of a group of committed local fundraisers.

A resource for those who need it most

“It has been a long wait, but we could not have made this project possible without their support and for that we are incredibly grateful.

“We hope the new Heather Suite will be an invaluable and much needed resource within the Inverness area for those who need it most.”

Robert and Emma MacLellan lost their son in 2019.

They were among those attending the opening with their daughter Penny, born in 2021.

Robert and Emma MacLellan with daughter Penny. The couple helped raise funds for the new suite. ImageSandy McCook/DC Thomson

Robert, 33, took part in the Three Peaks Challenge with his cousin Michael and held other fundraising events, supported by friends, family and workmates and customers at Highland Motor Parts.

In all, it contributed around £22,000 towards the refurbishment.

“It’s comforting to know there are facilities going to be there when people need them”, he said.

“It’s very important that something like this is here when they are going through such a difficult time.

“As well as the fundraising, it’s been good to raise awareness of SiMBA. It’s such an important charity that goers under the radar.

“It’s not until you start speaking about baby loss that you realise so many people are affected by it.”

‘We wanted to help people in the same situation’

Lyndsey and Donald Mateer wanted to support SiMBA and the new suite after Maximus was stillborn in 2019.

“We felt we had so much support from the charity and the hospital staff that we wanted to try to help anybody in the same situation in any way we could”, said Lyndsey, 39.

“It was really important for us. It’s just unfortunate things have taken such a long time due to Covid.”

Cutting the ribbon to open the suite, (L-R) Sara Fitzsimmons, co funder of SiMBA; midwife Di Matheson and parent fundraiser Susan Simpson Image Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

She said she and her husband were keen to do something as a lasting memory of Maximus.

“If what we’ve done in his name has helped create a new suite for other babies and parents then that’s a lovely thing to be able to do.”

Lyndsey was 35 weeks pregnant when she learned Maximus had not survived.

“I could hear other babies crying and your instinct is to look over to your baby and he’s not crying.

“It was also difficult going past the maternity ward and walking out with a box while everyone else is leaving with a baby.

“It’s a memory that will always be with me.”

It’s important to talk about baby loss

The money raised for the suite includes £1,000 collected at a celebration service for Maximus.

Lyndsey also took part in the Loch Ness Beast Race which brought in £4,000.

She and Donald, who have a son Soren, said it is important for parents who suffer loss to talk about their experience.

“We need to break down the taboos around miscarriage and baby loss. It’s the only way you can manage through it.”

The suite also has a quiet room for parents at a time of loss. Image<br />Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Gill Valentine, associate director of midwifery at NHS Highland, said: “It’s key to have this kind of facility at this very sensitive time during somebody’s pregnancy journey.

“We really value and appreciate the commitment of the families who have experienced loss in creating an environment that is supportive of other families going through this.

“Its exteremely valuable to get feedback from families so we can continue to improve our service.”

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