A MOTHER has raised more than £10, 500 for charity, after her baby was born seven and a half weeks early.

Emma Taphouse-Burt and her wife, Jo, decided to raise money for Somerset Neonatal Unit at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton because their son, Charlie, was born at just 32 weeks.

The care they received at the unit was “incredible” and so the couple decided they wanted to give something back.

Somerset County Gazette:

FUNDRAISING CHALLENGE: Charlie at just three and a half months old

Mrs Taphouse-Burt, from Street, said: “I was taken poorly at 32 weeks with HELLP syndrome and unfortunately it was a case of Charlie had to be born or we might have not made it.

“I didn’t know what happened the initial days after Charlie was born because I was poorly.

“But the neonatal unit did not only look after Charlie, they helped us and accommodated us as well so we were able to stay.

“There, he was given respiratory, temperature and food support in order to keep him alive.

“The care he was given by the staff during his four week stay was incredible and he wouldn't be here today without it.

“The initial challenge was to raise £3,500 for a much needed new Vapotherm ventilation machine for the unit, in aid of Love Musgrove.

“However, due to the amazing support we have received along with a lot of hard work, we have smashed that target and we are now looking to raise £11,500 for the Vapotherm ventilation machine and two much needed Inditherm heated mattresses in time for winter to help keep those tiny babies warm.”

Somerset County Gazette:

SMILE: Charlie at seven months old

The fundraising began in January this year, when Mrs Tophouse-Burt’s wife, who is part of Minehead Running Club, mentioned the idea to the group.

The club decided to have Charlies Challenge as their charity of the year, but Covid-19 restrictions put a halt to many of their planned fundraising events.

And so the couple decided to take on the fundraising themselves.

“They gave us so much and we left the hospital feeling so well treated that we just wanted to give back,” added Mrs Tophouse-Burt.

“They unit made us the parents we are today - because the nurses are fantastic.

“We will never repay what they gave us, but if we can help other babies then we will.

“The neonatal unit have a wish list, so we have carried on fundraising and doing whatever we can to get the pennies in.

“Fundraising is a full-time job, but once I set myself a challenge, I won’t fail.”

The events have included: an online zumbathon, online bingo, an eBay auction, pyjama days and more.

There is also an online raffle with more than 40 prizes, worth more than £1,000, which is being drawn on December 7.

The first prize is £250, the second is a stay overnight in a hotel with dinner.

Somerset County Gazette:

HELP: Mary, Emma, Charlie and Jo outside South Lawns care home in Street

Many other people have been donating to Charlie’s challenge as well, with Mary from South Lawns in Street who has made knitted hats for the premature babies and a Mrs Marlow who donated knitted blankets.

Charlies Challenge has now raised £10,602 for Love Musgrove. If the target of £11,500 is reached, the hospital will be able to buy a Vapotherm ventilation machine and two Inditherm heated mattresses.

A spokesperson for Love Musgrove said: “We’re so grateful for the support of the team behind Charlie’s Challenge, and we’re so thrilled that the excellent care given to Charlie has inspired his family to give back in such an incredible way.

“Donations to the neonatal unit here at Musgrove make an incredible difference in supporting families and staff during what can be a very difficult time.

“Funds raised through Charlie’s Challenge will be used to purchase additional state of the art equipment to accompany the incredible work and talent of the staff on the unit, and we are really grateful to those who have supported so far.”

To take part in the raffle, or to donate, visit www.charlieschallengeonline.co.uk