Mum Niki hoping to save babies’ lives with campaign

PUBLISHED: 10:23 13 June 2014

Niki Cunningham, who is running an awareness month for vasa praevia. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref exe 4840-24-14SH To order your copy of this photograph go to www.exmouthjournal.co.uk and click on Photo Orders

Niki Cunningham, who is running an awareness month for vasa praevia. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref exe 4840-24-14SH To order your copy of this photograph go to www.exmouthjournal.co.uk and click on Photo Orders

Archant

An Exmouth mother is marking the second anniversary of her son’s birth and tragic death by holding an awareness month for his condition.

Niki Cunningham founded the Harry Cunningham Trust with husband Jamie after their son Harry died aged 26 hours in June 2012, due to undiagnosed vasa praevia.

They founded the trust with the three aims of raising awareness of the disease, supporting bereaved parents and fundraising for the neonatal unit in Exeter, however Niki, 31, feared that the raising awareness aspect had taken a back seat.

To address this, she is running an awareness month for the whole of June through the trust’s Facebook page.

Niki, who is also mum to four-year-old William and 11-month-old Florence, said: “June is Harry’s month. He was born on June 8 and died on June 10, so the entire month of June is when I reflect on Harry. I wanted to not be sat at home thinking about what happened and making myself miserable and depressed, so I thought how can I do something beneficial and keep busy, and decided to do an awareness month for vasa praevia.”

The month started with the charity’s Facebook followers – the number of which increased by 1000 in the first week - being asked to change their profile pictures to the charity’s logo, and is now asking people to post a picture of themselves blowing a birthday kiss to Harry, while making a donation to the Trust.

This only started last Friday, but by Monday had already seen 150 pictures posted.

The trust has also been sharing stories of other families affected by vasa praevia – both those who have lost babies and stories of survival.

Niki said: “Knowing about vasa praevia and asking to be screened [at 20 weeks] can save babies’ lives. Screening for it takes just a couple of minutes, doesn’t involve any other expense, but if you just ask, like if you ask if it’s a boy or a girl, to be screened for vasa praevia they will do it nine times out of ten.

“For me it’s about having every single person who’s going to have children knowing about this, like everyone knows about Down Syndrome or heart defects.”

Vasa praevia is an often undiagnosed obstetric condition that causes the death of an otherwise healthy baby.

The Harry Cunningham Trust is also a stakeholder in a possible change of policy by the Department of Health to roll out a national screening programme for the condition, but while she waits for this to happen Niki is calling on mothers to take the initiative themselves.

“I’m taking it on myself to empower people with the knowledge so they can save their own babies, rather than waiting for someone else to tick the right box.”

For more on the awareness month visit www.facebook.com/HarrysTrust.

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