Couple’s £5,000 donation for incubator a legacy to sons

thisisoxfordshire: From left: Dr Charlotte Bennett, neonatal consultant at the John Radcliffe Hospital, St John Ambulance neonatal transport driver Adele Hambidge, and  James and Claire Down, parents of two boys who were born premature and died From left: Dr Charlotte Bennett, neonatal consultant at the John Radcliffe Hospital, St John Ambulance neonatal transport driver Adele Hambidge, and James and Claire Down, parents of two boys who were born premature and died

THE parents of twins who died shortly after their birth have raised more than £5,000 for a hospital incubator.

Claire Down said the donation to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital is a “legacy” for tragic brothers William and Thomas.

Thomas lived just 10 minutes and William 37 days after they were born last November at 25 weeks, 14 weeks earlier than expected. They were the couple’s first children.

Mrs Down and travel agent husband James, 39, from Witney, raised £5,300 from friends and family for the special incubator, that allows babies to be moved to other hospitals.

It is the hospital’s second, meaning tots can be moved together for the first time if required.

The incubator has been available for two weeks and has already been used three times.

The couple visited on Wednesday to see it for the first time.

An ambulance is always on standby to move babies and more than 600 are transferred each year.

Mrs Down, 36, said: “It means a lot to us that our sons left a legacy, that there was something positive that came out of their lives. We hope the experience for parents could be made marginally easier by the fact that they won’t have to split them up.”

She went into labour shortly after arriving home at Bathing Place Lane, Witney, from her occupational therapist role at Witney Community Hospital.

Thomas was born weighing just 1.5lb and William was about 1.6lb, compared to the average 7.8lbs.

Mrs Down added: “We would have obviously chosen a different outcome if we could have done but we felt very strongly that they had the best possible chance in life.

“Sometimes, nature is very hard to understand.”

She said: “William was very unwell but we managed to take him out of the incubator and cuddle him.

“I hadn’t realised how amazing that is – to hold your own son. It is something people take for granted that they give birth and are handed their son or daughter. We are so grateful to the hospital and to everyone who has supported us and donated so generously.”

Neonatal consultant Charlotte Bennett said: “We have to move babies in and out of Oxford across the Thames Valley to get them either to the John Radcliffe or back out to their local hospital.

“The new incubator means we can take twins in one journey, and at least one parent can travel with them.”

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