Nathaniel and Avidan were little twin boys born to Gabriella and Eitan Freilich at 28 weeks. Following 110 days in hospital Nathaniel came home. His little brother Avidan unfortunately passed away at just five weeks old. But his mission remained clear to his parents – the experience showed them how much more could be done to assist families in similar circumstances – a mission which is sadly required all too often for UK families.

With this in mind they worked with Camp Simcha to set up our Avidan’s Mission – our special care baby project. Here we catch up with the Gabriella almost three years on – and hear about the newest member of their family.

“Two years after giving birth to the twins, we were back in UCLH under the tender watch of the very consultants and team that helped us through originally. We found the experience somewhat therapeutic and felt truly blessed with the safe, full term arrival of our daughter Aurelia – born just before first night Channukah last year.

Nathaniel is the most caring, kind and gentle big brother and as I discuss with his consultant, he’s been a big brother for longer than people may think (and one day we hope to support him becoming a Camp Simcha Big Brother like his Dad was too)!

Through Aurelia, we were able to truly appreciate the struggles Nathaniel has gone through in the past 4 years. We watched Aurelia take the ‘normal’ steps to crawling, walking and talking whilst being able to really value that extra time it took Nathaniel and just how far he’s climbed. Whilst Nathaniel definitely had his delays… he’s now 4 years old and not only caught up with his ‘corrected age’ but overtaken where he should be for his ‘due date’ too!

He started nursery at school in September, being able to read, complete 12-piece puzzles and so much more! I think a huge achievement is we’re mid-November and is yet to pick up a cold. Nathaniel used to be overwhelmed by crowds of over a handful and just the other week was singing on stage with his Dad in front of over 600 people! We couldn’t be prouder.

Even once discharged, the struggles with Nathaniel continued although they were different to those in the neonatal unit. From those first nights at home when there’s no longer a machine telling you your baby is breathing and you lie awake checking a pulse to now when there are still times we are unsure (but in a way that’s motherhood, hey?). Is it normal not to be walking yet? Is it normal not to be able to balance? Will this cold turn into bronchitis? And when hand foot and mouth goes around the class, why are all the babies mild, whilst ours is so unwell he need oxygen? The life of a ‘premie’!

Through Avidan’s Mission we hope Camp Simcha can continue to support parents of premies in hospital and after discharge. When you spend so long in the neo-natal unit with your baby it can be terrifying when you go home and leave that bubble, unsupervised; Camp Simcha’s bespoke support and the input of their neo-natal nurse helps bridge that gap, ensuring those first nights and weeks at home are not so terrifying and families of special care babies get all the help they need.