Victoria Kastoun had never heard of the neonatal intensive care unit at Westmead Hospital.
That was until her second child Anthony was born prematurely at 26 weeks, despite a “perfect” pregnancy.
“He was nine-days-old before I could hold him for the first time,” she told the Sun.
“I was so excited, but scared at the same time. He was on oxygen support for 10 weeks. But he fared better than some of the other premmies in that he didn’t need major surgery.”
Eighteen months on, Anthony is a happy and healthy toddler. But his Greystanes family has never forgotten the NICU, where Anthony spent his first three months.
“We’re forever indebted to the staff,” Mrs Kastoun said.
“In what was a scary time in our lives, the unit was a safe haven, where there was so much support. Every milestone Anthony hits takes us back to the time of where he came from.”
Every milestone Anthony hits takes us back to the time to where he came from.Mum Victoria Kastoun
She and husband Robert run Revolution X Performance Centre in Holroyd, where they recently opened Little Lion Cafe, named after Anthony.
They have hired an artist to create a mural of Anthony’s life with the hope of raising awareness and funds for the NICU. “There’s less awareness of the NICU than the children’s hospital,” Mrs Kastoun said.
“Of the 6000 babies born, around 1500 end up in NICU, which is a huge number. For me, the more awareness there is out there about premmies, the better. It’s touching more and more people’s lives, so there’s a need to share those stories.”
Mrs Kastoun remains in contact with other mums and bubs who were in the NICU at the same time.
“It will always be a big part of our lives,” she said.
Sargents Pies Charitable Foundation recently donated $240,000 to the Westmead Medical Research Foundation. Some funding will go towards 18 oxygenation units for the NICU.
Mrs Kastoun and Anthony star in a new Westmead Hospital YouTube video that recognises Sargents’ contribution to the NICU. It has donated more than $2 million to Western Sydney Local Health District since 2011.
Anthony’s NICU crib was donated by Sargents.
“It made me realise how many people were on Anthony’s journey with us and how many contributed to his care,” Mrs Kastoun said.
“Life is a miracle that can’t be taken for granted. The importance of every milestone becomes tenfold.”