Mum tells of emotional time as virtual visits become a reality

An ingenious invention by a Wigan mum is set to provide vital emotional support to millions of new parents in their hour of need.

Saturday, 31st December 2016, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:00 pm
Lydia is pictured with her mum Clare

Orrell mum-of-three Clare Cassidy came up with the Virtual Visiting concept when daughter Lydia was being treated in post-natal care.

The system has been trialled at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool after financial help from a Liverpool FC legend.

And there are hopes it could be rolled out across the country.

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Virtual Visiting - dubbed Project Lydia in its early stages - uses webcam style technology so parents can remotely watch their newborn babies who have to be separated from them for medical reasons.

Clare, 45, said it will provide reassurance to new parents in such emotionally challenging circumstances.

She told the Observer: “When they first showed me the prototype I cried, it was very emotional.

“I said that’s going to mean so much to so many mums. I feel very proud that the hospital listened to me, as a mum, and to be involved in the project.

“From a technical point of view it’s very forward thinking and can make such a difference.

“From an emotional point of view, it’s hard to put it into words, it makes me well up.”

Clare, who is an IT manager and product designer, asked about installing a webcam when Lydia was being treated at Alder Hey.

Lydia was born with Gastroschisis, a condition where her digestive system organs protruded through the abdominal wall.

The brave youngster required numerous surgical procedures and prolonged in-patient care, spending the majority of her first nine months in hospital.

Clare said: “I had my two daughters (Amber and Darcey) at home and would have to leave Lydia with the fantastic staff at Alder Hey.

“But I would feel guilty on two counts, for leaving Lydia in the hospital and then, when I was with her, for leaving the other two.

“At night I would be pacing up and down thinking about Lydia and not wanting to ring the ward, again, and be bothering the nurses.

“I thought a webcam would put my mind at rest.”

She told staff about her suggestion and hospital bosses took her idea on board.

The project was later handed a massive boost with funds from Jamie Carragher’s 23 Foundation as the Liverpool FC legend also suffered from Gastroschisis as a youngster.

She said: “I’m very grateful that the hospital listened and it all became part of their innovation projects.”

Three-year-old Lydia, although small for her age, certainly makes up for it in personality, says her proud mum.

She attends Newfold Nursery, Hope School early years class and is a member of the Carol Barton dance school.

Although Lydia can join her two older sisters at meal times and eat regularly, she does still require extra nutrition through a special pump inserted straight into her stomach.

Clare is now working with technology company Red Ninja to further develop the Virtual Visiting system - under the name of Little Moments - with a view of rolling it out to other hospitals across the UK.

Alder Hey is currently working with Liverpool Women’s Hospital to install the system there, also.

A statement from Alder Hey about the project said: “Infants with surgical problems are often transferred for treatment away from the site of their birth without their mother, interrupting maternal bonding and exacerbating parental anxiety.

“The secure video link between mother and infant will overcome the psychological effects of geographical separation.”