Mum of 6 premature babies determined to give other families support she never had

A Middlesbrough market trader and mum of six children who were all born prematurely is determined to provide local families with the support she never had.

Louise Marshall and her partner Dan Keenan opened their Simply Babywear shop in Middlesbrough’s Dundas Indoor Market seven months ago. Now in a bigger unit, they’ve expanded their stock to include clothing for premature babies.

They hope to raise funds for local charity, Leo’s Neonatal, through a new scheme at the shop. The charity is close to the couple’s hearts, with all six of their children being born before full term.

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Louise and Dan are urging parents to bring outgrown clothes, which had been worn by their premature babies, to Simply Babywear and they will be sold to raise money for Leo’s Neonatal. The charity was set up in 2015 by Lottie King from Yarm after Leo, one of her twin sons, did not survive after being born at 24 weeks.

Roman, Louise’s most premature child, was also born at 24 weeks and weighed only one pound and four ounces. He was on oxygen for the first year of his life and spent six months in hospital.

Louise said: “They didn’t expect him to live and when he did live they didn’t expect him to walk, talk or sit up. I had to fight for him and I’m still fighting now, he’s able to do a lot more than other kids born as early as he was.

“He’s 12-years-old, but his behavior is like having a toddler. We’re still struggling to get him the help he needs.”

Louise said Roman’s nursing care was brilliant but when he survived it seemed that the attitude was “job done”.

She added: “When we got home there was a lack of support. There were home visits but nobody stopped around long enough to find out how we were getting on.”

Louise and Dan hope Simply Babywear’s donations to Leo’s Neonatal will help other families receive the on-going support they need. Leo’s Neonatal aims to provide additional care for families to complement the services provided by the neonatal units at The James Cook University Hospital, Darlington Memorial, The University Hospital of North Durham and Sunderland Royal Hospital. Simply Babywear is also selling Leo’s Neonatal cards and gifts.

Market manager David Harris explained how simply Babywear and many of the other occupiers in the Dundas do their “extra bit” to help their local community.

He said: “We’ve had people shaving their heads, running half-marathons and dressing up as elves to raise money. Like Louise, they have very personal reasons for wanting to help.

“All of our traders live locally and really care about their customers, neighbors, friends and families. All they ask for in return is that you continue to support their businesses.”

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