A first-time mother from Kelty has described her transition from loneliness to confidence, when considering her baby’s future, thanks to support received from Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus (SBH) Scotland.
In the latest in a series of powerful videos showcasing good cause projects backed by National Lottery funding, Kat Aitken opens up on her journey after learning during pregnancy that daughter Jessica would be born with Spina Bifida, a condition caused by a fault in the spinal column.
Kat and husband Darren faced their fears of the unknown but quickly found invaluable support in the shape of SBH Scotland and its specialist programme – Stronger Links, Stronger Families.
Supported by National Lottery funding, the project provides early years services to families in the Edinburgh, Lothian, Borders, Tayside and Fife area who have a child between the ages of 0-14 with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus.
Kat said: “Our journey started in Dundee at Ninewells Hospital. We had to go for IVF which was successful and we found out I was pregnant after 14 days.
“We went to the 20-week scan so happy because we had made the decision that we wanted to know the gender. That’s when the nurse told us we were having a wee girl then she continued with her examination. She stopped and paused and said she needed to check something. And that’s when she said there was an anomaly on Jessica’s back and we had to see a specialist doctor.”
Kat continued: “We asked her what it was and she said she couldn’t say for sure but that it looked like a form of Spina Bifida. We just heard the words and immediately thought of all the negatives – and the worst outcome: my baby’s not going to be able to walk.
“As a first-time mother I didn’t know any different so I was distraught, I thought it was my fault, I hadn’t done all the right things. It was overwhelming – at that point I just wanted a hole to open up and to fall into that hole. I couldn’t hear the positive things, only the negatives.”
Happily, 18 weeks later, Jessica was born and it was discovered she had closed Spina Bifida. From then, Jessica began receiving a range of operations and treatments while her parents were supported in learning more about the condition, with an introduction to SBH Scotland and Stronger Links, Stronger Families proving to be life-changing.
Kat explains: “SBH Scotland came into it when the medical professionals told us not to just go away and google things because all you see are horrendous scenarios. The doctor at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh pointed us towards SBH Scotland.
“I went on the Facebook page and wrote a message asking for information – I was quickly put in touch with Rachel from Stronger Links, Stronger Families and she set up an informal chat in our house and we’ve been with them ever since.
“Without their support the journey would have been a lot different as we wouldn’t have known where to go or who to turn to.
“It’s changed my life and I’ve gone from being distraught and upset and feeling alone and feeling like the only person in the world who has a child with Spina Bifida, to having the confidence to be able to talk about it, meet families and realise that there are people out there for you. You just need to get in touch.
“Now I’m more confident that Jessica is going to flourish and she’s become her own little person, she’s not categorised as a baby with Spina Bifida. She’s a person. She’s Jessica. And she’s going to be able to overcome anything that comes in her way.”
Stronger Links, Stronger Families has received £330,796 of National Lottery funding over a three-year period and has been able to extend its reach to Dundee and Fife from 2018. It is currently engaged with 47 families across all areas.
A SBH Scotland spokesperson said: “The relationships we help families – like Kat, Darren and Jessica – to find for themselves create a sense of community and understanding outwith the project.
“We create a safe place for families to come and be themselves, and with the relationships we build with other professionals, we’re able to offer them a continuity of care that makes a massive difference.”
More than 7,500 National Lottery grants have been invested into arts, heritage, sport and community projects in Dundee, Angus, Fife and Perth and Kinross since 1994.
To find out more about National Lottery Good Causes visit the website or follow #ThanksTayYou on social media.