Courtyard Renovation Boosts Vital Mum and Baby Unit

by Fraser Clarke

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

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ECHCNew Mum says specialist mental health ward saved her life. 

PLANS to renovate a courtyard space will help transform the lives of mothers experiencing mental problems after giving birth.

The outdoor garden area at the Mental Health Mother and Baby Unit at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, West Lothian, will undergo a major renovation to help it better support the recovery of women on the ward.

Meanwhile a young mum who suffered terrifying hallucinations and paranoia after the birth of her daughter welcomed the boost for the service which she credits with saving her life (Note – see separate case study which follows).

Thanks to Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC), the current courtyard will receive a full facelift.

The plans will change it into a vibrant and colourful space, with a variety of plants and relaxing spots for the women to enjoy.

Catherine Carver spent time in the unit when she was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis following the birth of her daughter, Beatrix, in 2016, and believes the new space will drastically improve the experience of women undergoing treatment.

She said: “The courtyard will be a brilliant addition. When you are eventually ready to go back into the outside world, it can be really daunting. I remember the first time I went back outside, I had to walk around the hospital and held onto my husband, Tom, so tightly.

“Having a calming, relaxing and private area will make the world of difference for the women who are just taking their first steps back outside again.”

The new-look courtyard will be designed for use by patients and their families. It will be divided into sections with different mood themes for those at different stages in their recovery, while the walls will be brought to life through the use of clever planting and artwork.

Lisa Canale, Senior Charge Nurse at the Mental Health Mother and Baby Unit, said: “The new courtyard will provide a brilliant outdoor space for patients to enjoy and get some time away from the ward.

“They’re always keen to get out and relax and at the moment so the renovation will really help out.”

The plans will divide the garden into different sections using different surfaces, such as grass in one area and paving in another, to create the idea of separate rooms. Many different varieties of plants, as well as fruit and vegetable patches, will ensure that the courtyard provides a wide range of textures, colours and smells.

Rachel Baxter, Director of Fundraising and Marketing at ECHC, said: “The work done at St John’s is remarkable and we’re thrilled to be able to continue to help make the hospital experience a more positive one.

“We’re delighted to be able to support the fantastic work of the Mental Health Mother and Baby Unit and we’re relying on the generosity of the local community to help us.  We’re calling on companies to come forward to help us to transform the courtyard space through gifts of money or in kind support”

“Ben Palmer, director of landscape architecture company Optimised Environments Ltd has already generously given of his time and expertise to help come up with ideas and draft initial plans for the courtyard. The plan is to now take those ideas and plans and bring them to life, creating a safe and nurturing space for the mothers and babies staying on the ward, and their families.”

ECHC is dedicated to transforming the experiences of children and young people in hospital and is best known for its work at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in the capital. However, it also carries out extensive work in other children’s healthcare settings across the southeast of Scotland and beyond, including St John’s Hospital.

Following a record-breaking 2016 it raised more than £1.8m and provided 82 grants, which included funding for the Craniofacial team at St John’s to attend a world leading course on their field of surgery. Other projects at the hospital included providing a vein finding piece of equipment as well as many toys, stickers, and certificates for the children’s ward, which help the staff to keep children positively focused.

Over the past 13 years, grants from ECHC have also enabled improvements to the play, waiting and consulting areas in the St John’s Out Patient Department, the creation of a new soft play area in the children’s ward, the purchase of a paediatric echo/ultrasound machine and the funding of staff visits to Shriners Burns Unit in Galveston, Texas to advance clinical knowledge.

CASE STUDY: Catherine thanks Mother and Baby Mental Health Unit for Saving Her Life

A MOTHER who suffered hallucinations, delusions and mania shortly after giving birth has paid tribute to the medical unit which “saved her life”.

Catherine Carver, from Edinburgh, became convinced that her baby had been swapped and that social workers were plotting to kill her soon after she gave birth to her daughter, Beatrix, in January 2016.

She was admitted to the Mental Health Mother and Baby Unit at St John’s Hospital, Livingston in June 2016 after her behaviour became increasingly erratic as she battled with the manic thoughts in her head caused by postpartum psychosis.

She said: “In the first few days after birth, I became paranoid that the nurses were talking about me and spying on me, as my suspicion that my baby had been swapped grew. When I got back home, I felt really anxious and thought ninja social workers were going to steal my baby and were parked outside to keep watch on me.

“Six weeks after birth, I went to see my GP at the request of my worried husband, Tom, and five months after, I was terrified to leave the house for fear of murderous social workers before I was admitted to the Mental Health Mother and Baby Unit.”

Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental health illness that affects women after they give birth. The symptoms and recovery process can be aided by the use of calming, safe and secure outdoor spaces to integrate the mothers back into the outside world.

Catherine added: “I remembered walking towards the unit and hearing a baby scream and I immediately turned and ran in the other direction. I was convinced that it was a place that collected bad mothers and took their babies away.

“I didn’t trust any of the nurses initially, but over the course of the six weeks I was there, the medication and treatment started to help.

“I have no doubt I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the amazing work of the Mental Health Mother and Baby Unit. The staff there are so supportive.”

ECHC is funding the overhaul of the existing courtyard space at the Mental Health Mother and Baby Unit to modernise it.

Catherine has no doubt that this investment and improvement in the courtyard will be invaluable for mothers going through the symptoms she suffered.

She said: “A proper courtyard would have helped me so much. I remember how daunting it was when I was eventually able to go back outside and gripping onto my husband so tight because we had to walk around the hospital, near other people.

“Having a fresh, bright and private space will really help with the gradual re-introduction into the outside world.”

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Young PR professional Fraser Clarke, who works with public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh, Scotland

Fraser Clarke

Young public relations professional Fraser Clarke is part of the multi award-winning team at Holyrood PR, a leading Scottish PR agency

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