Phoebe's Appeal – parents' plea to save babies lives | Action Medical Research

Phoebe's Appeal – parents' plea to save babies lives

8 December 2008

Christmas is normally a time for joy and celebrations but for one family even putting up the decorations brings back painful memories.  Lee Collier and his partner Karen lost their daughter Phoebe in December 2005 when she was born early at just 23 weeks.  The couple are now fronting a new charity Christmas appeal, backed by TV’s Dr Dawn Harper, which aims to help save babies’ lives.

Only now, three years on, have the couple felt able to talk about Phoebe’s death, speaking in support of national charity Action Medical Research; a charity funding research into pregnancy complications, premature birth and care for sick babies.

Lee and Karen, from Blandford Forum in Dorset, said the problems began when Karen was just over 20 weeks into her pregnancy:

Lee says: “Karen had only just started buying maternity clothes when everything started to go wrong. The doctors did their best to try and help our little girl hold on and get past the 24-week mark, but in the end the labour couldn’t be stopped. Phoebe was born at just 23 weeks and four days on 15 December – too early and asleep.

“Christmas will never be the same for us again, but if we can help other families in the future to avoid what we’ve been through, then Phoebe’s death won’t have been in vain. That’s why we are supporting this Action Medical Research appeal - to raise vital funds to support doctors in their bid to understand what causes early labour and find ways to prevent life-threatening pregnancy complications.”

Dr Dawn Harper says: “Premature birth is much more common than perhaps a lot of people think. Every year in the UK around 50,000 babies are born prematurely - before 37 weeks of pregnancy - and for those families affected it is a truly traumatic experience.

“Although more premature babies are surviving, thanks to improved neonatal care, very little progress has been made in actually understanding why early labour occurs in some women, diagnosis is difficult and relatively little can be done to stop it once it has started. Tragically more than 25 babies die each week as a result of being born too early.  Major breakthroughs frequently take years to achieve. Without sustained funding to investigate the causes and more joined-up planning backed by the government, as well as charities like Action Medical Research, progress in tackling premature birth will remain limited.” 

Action Medical Research is raising money to fund vital work to help tackle premature birth, but is also calling on the government to do more. The charity is campaigning for the development of a ten-year National Research Strategy to properly support doctors and scientists across the UK as they look for answers.

On average, Action Medical Research spends around £800,000 a year on projects aimed at reducing pregnancy complications, premature birth and giving babies a better start in life. Only medical research can give us a real understanding of the conditions that put mothers and babies like Phoebe at risk and enable doctors to find new treatments. More money is urgently needed to continue to fund such crucial research. 

You can support Phoebe’s appeal at

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact:

Kate Lee, Research Communication Officer
Tel: 01403 327478

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