Helen McAdie (left) and Jane Rizina (right) at Cardiff for Ukraine

Lifesaving incubator delivered to last neonatal unit in Ukraine region thanks to the people of Cardiff

Tiny premature babies’ lives could be saved by the costly piece of kit

A UKRAINIAN support hub in Cardiff Bay has helped fund a £10,000 incubator for premature babies which will be delivered to the only neonatal unit left standing in Kherson.

As postpartum mothers in Ukraine often have to abandon their premature babies on the ward as they run for shelter, this lightweight infant incubator will help reduce the number of unnecessary newborn deaths by providing a portable, regulated environment for the babies.

Cardiff for Ukraine, a charity located in Cardiff Bay, raised almost £8,000 through fundraising events last year, along with CreditSafe Caerphilly and other individual donors, to fund the £11,500 incubator.

The group has worked closely with Wendy Warrington, a midwife from Tottington, who has been working as a first responder and supporting newborn babies and their mothers in Poland and Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.  

Helen McAdie, one of the founders of Cardiff for Ukraine, explained why they chose to support Wendy in her efforts.

“For me, this is massive,” she said. “We’ve already supplied generators to Ukraine, which are always needed because they only have about two to three hours of power a day, which in these freezing conditions is awful. But this incubator is really special.

“The incubator can be powered by a car battery and is very unique in the way that it can be taken down into a shelter and can be moved into a vehicle if they need to get a baby out quickly.

“During the last air attacks, babies had to be plucked from these incubators and simply held skin to skin to stay warm. This is a huge risk to these little newborns, which will only worsen as we head into the cold Ukrainian winter.”

The MoM Essential Incubator was developed in Glasgow and was created by James Roberts as a final-year university student. According to MoM, 26 life-support incubators have been delivered to Ukraine, with 30 more on the way, but it is estimated that up to 400 may be needed to meet demand.

With the help of Ukraine Train, an operation that has provided over 250 4×4 vehicles to move aid around the country, The MoM Essential Incubator was transported into Ukraine on February 10.

This portable incubator will be delivered to the only neonatal unit in Kherson, which is still standing despite having been attacked three times.

Wendy Warrington at the maternity ward in Kharkiv (Credit: Wendy Warrington)

Wendy has been documenting her voluntary work as a midwife on her Facebook page ‘My Polish/Ukrainian Journey’ and she thanks everyone for the ongoing support.

“I can’t begin to imagine how the staff managed when a bomb hit the hospital,” she said. “The panic and fear when trying to move and evacuate vulnerable premature and sick babies down beneath the hospital, amongst the debris, must have been horrific.

“I’ve spoken to the neonatal nurses who told me that the babies in incubators were literally picked up in the arms of the staff as they fled for cover. We heard in other areas the most vulnerable were left behind!

“The equipment at this regional hospital is antiquated, to say the least, so thanks to James the CEO from MoM, supporters from Cardiff for Ukraine and CreditSafe this hospital will get a much-needed incubator.”

The hospital in Kherson has been attacked three times (Credit: Wendy Warrington)

Along with fundraising for lifesaving medical equipment, Cardiff for Ukraine has provided a safe space for Ukrainian refugees over the last 12 months, as well as collecting and supplying donations such as clothing, bikes, toys, furniture and hygiene products to help the Ukrainians arriving in Wales to “feel as home as possible.”

The group, which is run entirely by volunteers, started collecting donations in a marquee outside a vet in February last year, but with the help of Cardiff Council, managed to relocate to Mandalay House due to the huge amount of donations they received.

“When we first kicked off, the aid was overwhelming. The aid collection just kept coming in,” said Ms McAdie.

“Nowadays, we try to do more targeted aid sourcing. Jane, our administrator, takes the list of all the requirements that people come in and ask for, and then we work with our ‘go-getters’ who search through all the recycle and reuse Facebook groups and so on to try and find the items.”

Ms McAdie, who works as a camera operator at the BBC, visited Ukraine in 1991 after the country declared independence from the Soviet Union. She began volunteering as a way to “repay the lovely Ukrainian hospitality,” she received there.

“We facilitated this place so the Ukrainians can own it; it’s their safe space. I found that if there is something awful that happens over in Ukraine, people just gravitate here. Some have even travelled from North Wales to be here.

“They can talk to people in their own language to make new friends. It’s been such a pleasure seeing the Ukrainian volunteers bond and create such lovely friendships out of such a horrific event.”

Cardiff for Ukraine collect bikes, toys, clothes, shoes and furniture to help refugees settle into their new homes (credit: Eirian Jones)

Ms McAdie added: “There’s always another terrible event in the news where families are broken and displaced, take for example the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. The news always moves on, but the support still remains.

“Seeing the reactions of people who arrive for the first time – even if they don’t want anything, it’s a visual representation of how people care about them, that they’re not forgotten, they just come and see how much stuff has been donated and it just shows that people care.

“We are extremely grateful to Cardiff City Council for helping to supply this facility and for their continuing support.”

Cardiff for Ukraine is located at Mandalay House, Cardiff Bay, and is open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, every week. More information about what donations are needed can be found here.