The parents of twins born three months early have set up a charity to help support other families who have babies in neonatal care.
Kirsty Lowther, 26 and husband Shaun 39, from Trimdon, have set up Neoangels to help parents with babies who are being cared for on the neonatal unit at the University Hospital of North Tees for long periods of time.
It comes after their twins Noah, who weighed 2lb 3oz and Ava, at 1lb 13oz, were born premature.
The fund will help parents manage expenses such as travel, car parking and meals at the hospital, while Kirsty also hopes that the charity will build a support network for others who are going through a similar situation.
Kirsty, who works as a funeral director for Co-op Funeral Care in Stockton said Ava and Noah were both ventilated as soon as they were born.
She added: “It was the scariest thing that me and my husband have ever had to go through.
“Our twins were on the neonatal unit for a total of 76 days for intensive care, high dependency, special care and transitional care.
“I was with the twins all day every day. Everyone was absolutely fantastic and really supportive. The staff on the neonatal unit remember you. They weren’t just doctors and nurses. They became our friends.
“The neonatal unit were out this world just when we thought our care couldn’t get any better this amazing ward saved our babies, helped us through the hardest time of our lives and supported us.
“Me and my family owe this unit our everything and because of them and what they have done for us we have set up a charity for the unit called Neoangels.
“When we were in the hospital we realised that there was very little financial support for parents with babies who are in hospital for a long period of time, to help with unexpected expenses.
“Not only is it about having financial support, but it is about building up a support network for families to get in touch and be able to provide emotional support for each other.
“We’re starting to make plans for the future of the charity, our live music event sold out within a few hours, we’re planning a Christmas fair and a summer ball on July 2 next year at Rockcliffe Hall.
“I would love for local people to get involved to help support others whose babies are being cared for the hospital’s neonatal unit. It is a lovely feeling, knowing that this charity will be helping to support other families.”
Ward matron Debbie Bryan said: “Kirsty and Shaun really are an inspiration. Every donation which is made to the neonatal unit is so valuable. This charity will be a much needed support to parents at what can be a very difficult time.”
Find out more about neoangels and how to support the charity at www.neoangelscharity.com