One Man’s Heartbreak Behind Campaign to Help Critically-Ill Newborns

Peter Cursley started the Newborn Intensive Care Foundation after losing his own daughter, Hannah. Photo: Jake Lynch/BRHS


Bake for Babies fundraiser will help purchase a Giraffe Warmer Resuscitaire
for Bairnsdale’s Emergency Department.

The tragedy of losing a newborn baby is something that most parents never have to live through.

Peter Cursley has lived through it.

In 1993, after a long and complicated labour and delivery, baby Hannah was born facing an uphill battle to live.

After days on life support at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Canberra Hospital, Peter and his wife Susan had to make the unimaginable decision to take baby Hannah off life support.

“She died in our arms not long afterwards,” Peter said.

During this difficult time, Peter and Susan formed a close bond with the staff of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and its Director, Dr Guan Koh.

Many of the babies admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit require medical equipment, such as neonatal ventilators, that other hospitals just don’t have.

Despite their own heartbreak, Peter and Susan were full of praise the compassion, professionalism and commitment of Dr Koh and his team.

Peter’s experience at the time, and appreciation for their work, formed in him a resolve to donate to the unit to support other parents and their babies that begin life with a fight.

Unfortunately for Peter, more sadness was to come. His wife, Susan, was diagnosed with a brain tumour just a few months later, and died the following year.

Despite the tragedies he had endured, Peter never forgot the kindness of Dr Koh and the Neonatal Unit staff, or his pledge to do what he could to help.

While many of us would have be satisfied to make a donation, Peter had a vision to do more.

And in 1995, after a lot of research and groundwork, he launched the Newborn Intensive Care Foundation (NICF), a non-profit with the mission to raise money for medical equipment, education and research to help critically ill newborn babies.

Since that time, the NICF has raised about $6 million to do just that, supporting hospitals primarily in the Canberra region.

Helping Babies in Bairnsdale

Now, Peter and the NICF have launched a new campaign to purchase an important infant resuscitation device for the Emergency Department in Bairnsdale.

At a cost of about $32,000, the Giraffe Warmer Resuscitaire provides everything needed for resuscitation therapy for babies up to 12 months.

The first 10 minutes of a newborn resuscitation is critical, but at the moment the Emergency Department does not have a permanent Resuscitaire of its own, with Bairnsdale Regional Health Service (BRHS) having to share a small number of Resuscitaires with both the Theatre and Maternity Ward.

“We are seeing more paediatric presentations to the ED these days,” said Emergency Department Nurse Unit Manager Trish Young. “Time is so important when you’re dealing with newborns. Babies become hypothermic, acidotic, hypoglycaemic and hypoxic very quickly without appropriate timely care, and so having a Resuscitaire on hand in the ED is crucial.”

The NCIF campaign to raise the money to purchase the Resuscitaire is called Bake for Babies, and the idea is simple.

Bake something, and get your friends, workmates, neighbours or family members to chip in a donation for the treat.

Maybe you could host a Bake for Babies morning tea in your workplace?

Or a bake sale with your sporting club?

Perhaps you make some mean muffins or scones that your friends would be willing to buy for a couple of bucks for a good cause?

Bake for Babies runs through June and August.

“People can bake whatever they like,” Peter said. “Cakes, pizzas, brownies, cheesecakes… sell a slice or maybe charge friends for a seat at the table of a baked dinner.”

“We want people to have fun baking, get their friends involved, and then sell their baked creations at a price they think appropriate and donate the profits to the campaign.”

All bakers donating more than $2 will receive a tax deductible receipt, and 100% of all money raised will go to purchasing the Resuscitaire. Any additional funds raised will fund other medical equipment, education and research to help babies fighting for life.

There’s information and ideas to help you do something fun for Bake for Babies at

For all the information about the Bairnsdale Bake for Babies campaign, visit

BRHS staff will be launching their own Bake for Babies fundraisers in June.

Stay tuned for news about those, and more information on how you can get involved and host a Bake for Babies fundraiser of your own!