New video messaging service helps parents of babies at Sheffield Children's Hospital stay connected

Family heartbreak at being separated from a poorly child while they undergo hospital treatment for serious illnesses is being eased thanks to new technology.

By Diana Stannard
Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 10:32 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 2:51 pm
Mum Kathryn and Jessica, who was able to return home in September 2020
Mum Kathryn and Jessica, who was able to return home in September 2020

Babies staying on the Neonatal Surgical Unit at Sheffield Children’s Hospital will have momentous occasions captured for all the family to see - no matter where they are – thanks to a charity-funded secure messaging service.

The Children’s Hospital Charity have funded a secure new photo system known as ‘v-Create’ to help ease separation anxiety between parents and their babies.

The system has proved particularly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic, where visitor numbers have been restricted to ensure patient safety.

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Jessica underwent two life-saving operations at Sheffield Children's

Among those to benefit from the system were the family of one-year-old Jessica Dales

Jessica was born with Oesophageal atresia in March 2020, which is a rare condition where a short section at the top of the food pipe has not formed properly and food cannot pass from the throat to the stomach.

Alongside the condition, she was also born with Tracheo-oesophageal fistula, which is where part of the foodpipe is joined to the windpipe. These conditions are very rare, occurring in between one in every 3,500 and one in every 5,000 births.

Jessica underwent two life-saving operations at one and ten days old at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Jessica on her first day on the Neonatal Surgical Unit (NSU)

Mum Kathryn Date said: “These operations couldn’t be performed by our local hospital and required the specialist surgical team at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Jessica started her stay on NSU at just one week old and spent the next five months being cared for on the unit, as she experienced a lot of difficulties with breathing and feeding.”

The secure messaging service allows the clinical team to send photos and video updates to parents for those times when they are unable to be with their child. It means that parents can access updates without the worry of missing out, while also reassuring themselves of their child’s wellbeing and minimising any separation anxiety.

Parents can also download their child’s content to keep when they have left the unit, as well as share it with friends and family unable to visit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mum Kathryn continues: “I was lucky enough to have a room to stay in nearby so I could be with Jessica most of the time, but v-Create was especially useful for my partner who was unable to visit due to the restrictions and stayed at home to care for our other daughter.

Jessica and mum Kathryn

“I would go home once a week and the nurses were really good at using V-Create when I wasn’t there. Receiving the photos and videos helped to ease my guilt whenever I left Jessica and provided the assurance that she was OK and in the best of care.”

Staff nurse Codie Champion said: “The v-Create system is an amazing tool which encourages and enables whole family involvement- something that has been needed more than ever this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“NSU sees patients from across the region, so there can be times when parents are separated from their babies. V-Create enables the staff to securely send them pictures and videos which is invaluable to the bonding process of being a new parent, especially when their baby is ill and far away from home.”

After five months on NSU, Jessica was transferred on to the High Dependency Unit (HDU) before finally being able to go home in September 2020.

Jessica is due to start nursery soon

Mum Kathryn continues: “Jessica has been home six months now and is doing really well. She is still on oxygen during the day and ventilation at night, and she is currently fed via a feeding tube, but she is a very happy girl and due to start nursery soon.

“The care at Sheffield Children’s was amazing, especially at a time that was so hard for everyone with all the changes due to the pandemic. We can’t put into words how grateful we are to the staff for their care of Jessica, especially those who went above and beyond for our family.

“Thanks to them, we were able to bring our baby girl home. They will always hold a very special place in our hearts.”

To support The Children’s Hospital Charity, visit