Kirkcaldy schoolgirl’s special hearts keeping babies and parents united

Keryn Doherty (right) and gran Mary Cunningham (second left) with neonatal nurse Caroline MacFarlane, infant feeding advisor Donna Robertson, and Lynn David, senior charge midwife.
Keryn Doherty (right) and gran Mary Cunningham (second left) with neonatal nurse Caroline MacFarlane, infant feeding advisor Donna Robertson, and Lynn David, senior charge midwife.

A kind-hearted Kirkcaldy school pupil’s special gift is helping newborn babies and parents to feel close to each other – even when they are not together.

Keryn Doherty (15), an S4 pupil at St Andrew’s High School, and her gran, Mary Cunningham, have created special cotton hearts for families in the neonatal and maternity ward at the town’s Victoria Hospital.

Each baby receives two cotton hearts – one stays with the baby and the other is given to the baby’s mum and dad. The hearts can then be swapped so that even when the baby is not with their parents they still have their scent close to them, helping to lower the baby’s blood pressure and encourage bonding.

They are used for premature and underweight babies, as well as others who need extra care and have to spend time away from their parents.

The idea came about after Keryn’s mum, Claire, a nursery nurse on the maternity ward, saw the practice being piloted back in August.

“I thought it was a great idea and mentioned it to my mum who started making hearts for the neonatal ward. Keryn got involved too and, to date, they have made about 250 hearts.

“They are currently just used on the neonatal ward, but lots of people in the maternity unit have commented on them and it could be extended to all babies.

“It’s lovely seeing the babies coming from the neonatal unit with the hearts in their cots and telling people that my daughter and mother made them.”

Keryn, who was taught to sew by her gran, uses her own sewing machine and chooses the material patterns.

She said: “I think this is really important because the connection is kept between mum and baby, I can’t believe that something so simple can work so well.

“I am looking into the possibility of starting up a sewing club at school to encourage my friends to make more of the hearts.”

Mrs Cunningham added: “I was so taken with the idea I had to go ahead and make some. Years ago my own baby was born underweight and had to remain in hospital for 10 days. I only wish that back in 1981 I had the chance to receive these hearts.”

Helen Wright, director of nursing, said: “I would like to thank Keryn and Mary for their generous donation.

“Bonding between baby and parents is so important and is encouraged and supported throughout the hospital stay. There will be times when baby and parents aren’t able to be together and the cotton hearts are one way that they can continue to feel close to one another.

“Keryn and Mary are to be commended for their work - their gift is a special one which will be appreciated by parents and babies.”