I was going to dedicate this week’s column to my Dad. The strongest and bravest man I knew who passed away a year ago next week.
Not a day goes by when I don’t think about him, talk to him, draw strength from him. But I also know he wouldn’t be happy if I focused the next 400 words or so on sadness or his passing when I encountered something so happy and full of life this week. Something beautiful that happened organically and indeed made me wish I had thought of it!
Monday marked World Prematurity Day, a day for raising awareness of premature babies and the challenges faced by families experiencing an early birth. For me, it started with a tweet to the West Suffolk Hospital Twitter account.
It came from a lady called Joanna Baines and was complete with four photos of her beautiful boy – ‘now 4 and thriving’, Joanna wrote. A perfect thing to post on to the Facebook page of West Suffolk Hospital Charity, Joanna kindly allowed us to copy and paste the message across social media platforms.
What followed next was something quite wonderous. The Facebook comments attached to Joanna’s original message started to swell. One by one, parents posted pictures of their babies that had begun life in the hospital’s Neonatal Unit. Some posted two pictures – one of their time in the unit and one of their pride and joy now ‘thriving’ or as a ‘little dude’.
Inspired by Joanna, the photos kept coming as parents paid tribute to the special staff on the Neonatal Unit. I joined them, showcasing a picture of our little George after he was born six weeks early and weighing 4lbs and 4ozs just under three years ago. It was quite humbling to be able to share our little story among so many other wonderful families.
While it was the care and support offered by the unit which brought everyone together, it was Facebook that gave them a voice to showcase their gratitude.
There is a lot wrong with social media. Barely a week goes by where Twitter and the use of it doesn’t hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. Facebook has many problems too.
But at its best, as a way of connecting friends, family or indeed those with shared experiences, it can often be a force for good.
One of my last favourite memories of my Dad was him, thinking nothing of his tubes or immeasurable pain, rolling around the living room floor with George.
He might not have understood Facebook but Dad would have loved the way a small corner of the West Suffolk community embraced World Prematurity Day.
You can view the images and words on www.facebook.com/WestSuffolkHospitalCharity.