To mark World Prematurity Day on Friday 17th November 2023, Leeds Children’s Hospital has unveiled a new project called Corridors of Courage, across its two Neonatal Units.

The Corridors of Courage feature stories from 80 families who have shared their child’s ‘then and now’ photos displayed on the wall in bright and colourful frames, as well as Books of Courage, for parents to read all the inspirational stories. This new artwork has been made possible thanks to funding from Leeds Hospitals Charity and the fundraising efforts of previous neonatal families.

This has completely transformed the long clinical corridors of the units into a more positive and hopeful space for families to walk through. Staff on the unit hope that the corridor spreads positivity and hope to families with their poorly babies by sharing stories from tiny babies who are now happy, healthy children and grown-ups.

The project originated from the "Unexpected Beginnings" podcast, which launched on World Prematurity Day in 2021, another initiative funded by Leeds Hospitals Charity. In this podcast, many parents voiced how it can be a daunting and anxiety-ridden experience to walk down the long corridors of the units for the first time.

Neonatal podcast supported by charity launches on World Prematurity Day

Seven-year-old Zeb Harris, from Wakefield, is one of the children sharing his story as part of the Corridors of Courage initiative.

Zeb’s mum Sarah unexpectedly went into labour at 25 weeks pregnant on Christmas Eve in 2015 and was transferred to the Neonatal Unit at Leeds Children’s Hospital for specialist care. Zeb’s early life was marked by unique circumstances, he experienced a ‘mermaid birth’ and was born still inside the amniotic sac, which only happens in 1 in 80,000 births.

Little Zeb spent the first 12 weeks of his life on the unit, away from his big brother Jonah Beau. Zeb contracted life-threatening sepsis twice and underwent multiple blood transfusions. Sarah and her husband Robin were told twice to prepare to say goodbye, but Zeb defied the odds and survived thanks to the incredible care he received.

Zeb’s dad Robin remembers walking down the hospital corridor every day and seeing a poster of a child named Daniel who was born at the same gestation age as Zeb. Robin told us how he built a bond with Daniel and how seeing his face gave his family hope for Zeb’s future:

 “When we heard about the Corridors of Courage project, we jumped at the chance for Zeb to be involved, knowing how much seeing Daniel’s face helped us through the toughest time of our lives. We never even knew there was a Neonatal Unit before we spent months of our life there with Zeb, and the hospital became our ‘new normal’. The ward is quite a lonely place, you feel isolated from the outside world and there’s nowhere to go. Having something bright, colourful, and hopeful on the walls will really make a difference, we’re honoured to be part of it.”

Zeb with his older brother Jonah, mum Sarah and Dad Robin next to his Corridors of Courage photo

Laura Mottram, Neonatal Nursery Nurse at Leeds Children’s Hospital, spearheaded the project in collaboration with Neonatal families. Laura told us how the Corridors of Courage can positively impact parents during the most difficult time of their lives:

"I’ve seen first-hand how being on the ward with their poorly baby can impact parents’ mental wellbeing, it’s an unfamiliar and clinical place where no one wants to be with their new baby. Now, thanks to this funding, when parents or carers enter the corridors, there is a sense of community, strength, and mutual support. Parents can read the vibrant stories of resilience from some of the smallest babies we have cared for who years on, are now living life to the fullest.” 

Rebecca Baldaro-Booth, Head of Grants at Leeds Hospitals Charity, explains why the charity is proud to fund Corridors of Courage:

“One of our charity’s key funding priority areas is environment, we understand the importance of making the hospital a little brighter for patients and families. This wonderful project has been brought to life thanks to donations and the inspirational fundraising efforts from families, helping to bring a small ray of sunshine to some of the darkest times parents will experience with their poorly babies.”

“At a time full of uncertainty, we hope that these stories will help make a difference, by providing positivity and light to parents and the hardworking staff working around the clock to look after some of the hospital’s smallest patients.”

Staff on the Neonatal Unit also invited families who have been on the units to attend a special celebration event funded by Leeds Hospitals Charity at the Thackary Medical Museum on World Prematurity Day.

 Neonatal Staff, Leeds Hospitals Charity representatives, patient Matilda  holding a book of Courage and her mum Alice