The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped a lot of things. One thing it can't prevent is ladies having babies - and unfortunately dealing with premature and sick newborns.
It has made the 15th anniversary year of the Chipping Norton-based Miracle Babies Foundation the toughest on record.
But that hasn't stopped their chief executive and co-founder Kylie Pussell trying to help those families in need. She knows first-hand of the benefit of support during what is a "traumatising" time.
Mrs Pussell, who is a finalist in the Community Woman category at the Western Sydney Women awards, is a mum to three surviving miracle babies and has drawn on her personal experience with miscarriage, neonatal bereavement and extreme prematurity to develop vital programs and resources in Neonatal ICUs and Special Care Nurseries(SCN) across Australia including western Sydney hospitals - Liverpool, Campbelltown, Westmead, Fairfield, Nepean, and Blacktown.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra layer of difficulty for families of premature and sick newborns.
"It's such a traumtising and emotional place when you have a premature or sick baby... it doesn't got to plan and it's a whole new world. It's very technical; it's full of equipment you don't know much about," the Harrington Park resident said.
"Increased anxiety, risk of depression and isolation have been exacerbated with the pandemic with hospital limits and parents are not together which is hard when you're dealing with difficult conversations with doctors and nurses about the health and care of your baby.
"You need that support of your partner and at the moment that has been a challenge for a lot of families. We have moved a lot of our programs online so parents can have a secondary form of connection to reduce that isolation.
"Sometimes knowing you are not alone and you have got someone you can talk to openly about your fears and concerns is sometimes enough for some parents."
The "fear, guilt, isolation and uncertainty" of a group of mothers of premature and sick newborns was behind the birth of the Miracle Babies Foundation in 2005 with the help of Liverpool Hospital's NICU.
Mrs Pussell was one of the mothers in the group that wanted to support other families of miracle babies and give back to the hospitals that care for them. They are not professional social workers. They offer peer support and put people in contact with the "right people at the right time" if they need extra help from professionals.
Their 24-hour-support line (1300 622 243) received a lot of extra calls during the height of the pandemic while their Nurture Groups - a free play and support group for parents - were put on hold.
"Sometime people ask why is the support line 24-hours but parents can come home from the hospital at 11pm or emotions can hit when mums are expressing at 2am in the morning. It's not just 9am to 5pm," she said.
"This year has been challenging for everyone - especially for parents of premature or sick newborns. For us it has been a challenge but one we have learnt from. Bushfires straight into a pandemic, so the charity dollar has become minimal and very challenging and tough to keep that income coming in because everyone is going through such a hard time," she said.
And what about being a finalist for the Western Sydney Women awards?
"It's always nice to be a finalist for an award, especially when you are nominated by your team members. It's a real honour to know you have that respect for your leadership," she said.
- The Western Sydney Community Woman Award recognises excellence in the not-for-profit or NGO community. This is focused on community organisations that have made a substantial impact in their community. The winners will be announced via livestream on September 15.