The death of their newborn daughter Hannah in 1993 led Peter (pictured) and Susan Cursley to start a foundation to raise much-needed funds for the Canberra Hospital’s Centre for Newborn Care. The Newborn Intensive Care Foundation was their way of saying thank you to the medical and nursing teams who had supported them during the difficult time.
Since its official launch in 1995, the foundation has raised over $4 million in cash and kind and made a difference to the lives of thousands of babies and their families across Canberra and Southern New South Wales.
Soon after the foundation was created, 26-year-old Susan died of a brain tumour, and Peter has run it with a small committee ever since – though he says he is still no expert in grief and loss.
“The pain is always there but time helps keep the pain at bay. Starting the foundation has helped put a little positive into what was a huge negative, so in my mind at least it creates a reason for our loss,” he says.
Peter says that the most rewarding part of the job is knowing that he has played a small part in helping sick babies go on to lead normal lives.
“Positive intervention with the right care at such an early age means that babies may not require on-ongoing treatment or support as they grow older through their teens and in to adulthood.”
NICF is volunteer-run and has no administration expenses. Donations have been used to buy equipment, fund research, send nurses to conferences to learn and share knowledge and to purchase small gifts for babies and their parents who are in the intensive care nursery over Christmas.
While some of these funds are raised via media events such as telethons, most support comes from the local community through donations, events and sponsorships.
Peter, a 2012 ACT Australia Day Awards finalist, says that the Canberra Hospital’s Centre for Newborn Care is in desperate need of a retinal camera to reduce retinopathy, a potentially blinding eye disorder in premature newborn babies.
The camera would complement Larry, an affectionately named laser that NICF purchased for the unit a few years ago. Before Larry’s purchase, babies had to travel from Canberra to Sydney for retinopathy treatment, which meant coordinating transport, an available neonatal intensive care bed in Sydney and an available ophthalmologist to perform the treatment – “an expensive exercise for the want of a $70,000 eye laser,” Peter says.
NICF’s next fundraising event is a tribute to Australia’s first international diva, Dame Nellie Melba, on Saturday 18 October at 3pm at the Wesley Uniting Church in Forrest. Tickets are $20 (available at the door) and all proceeds will go to the foundation. If you’d like to help with NICF’s fundraising efforts or get in touch with Peter, visit its website or Facebook page.