A Derry couple have raised over £5,000 in aid of the hospital unit that saved their twins’ lives with the help of a close friend.

Bob and Michelle McLaughlin daughters Saorlaith and Saoirse received life-saving care at Altnagelvin Hospital’s Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit (NNICU), where they were looked after in 2016 after they were born prematurely and suffering from a potentially fatal complication.

The girls arrived six weeks early and suffered from ‘Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome’ in the womb, where one baby gets the majority of the blood flow and nutrients from the placenta.

They were nursed back to health by the staff at the Neo Natal unit and their parents have held a charity walk for the past two years to raise money to say thanks.

This year family friend Michael Kelly offered to hold a fundraising event at his tattoo parlour to help boost their donation.

It soon mushroomed into a huge family fun day at the Tattoo Lounge in Rathmor Business Park and rock night at the Delacroix which both took place on Saturday.

Mr Kelly was joined by a team of tattooist from across the north who managed to ‘ink up’ 120 people with specially designed tattoos.

Those who got tattooed included parents whose children had spent time in the ward and even three members of staff.

Mr McLaughlin got two designs himself- a purple ribbon, which is the symbol of prematurity awareness, and a set of footprints surrounded by a heart shaped stethoscope to pay tribute to the care given to his daughters at the hospital.

“It was a really excellent day,” Mr McLaughlin told the Derry News.

“I couldn’t even have imagined that so many people would turn up and show their support from all over the city and beyond.

“A lot of people had personal reasons for being there and personal reasons behind the tattoos that they choose.

“There was one woman who got a tattoo in memory of her grand child who had sadly passed away in the NNICU, so there were a lot of really emotional stories.”

Awareness

Mr McLaughlin thanked everyone who helped make the fundraising event such a huge success.

“It means the world to us that Michael decided to do this for our family and that he and all his staff and visiting tattoo artists gave up their time for free,” he added.

“It is something we will never forget. It has raised £5,347.20 for the NNICU and it has raised so much awareness as well.

“Thank you also to The McConomy School of Irish dance who allowed their premises to be used for the fun day and to the dancers and bands that performed during the day, to Donna Kelly and Noleen O’Hara who baked all night for the bake sale, to the bikers and bands who took part in the Delacroix and everyone who gave their time and money to make the event such a success.”

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