Chorley couple’s gifts to NICU after 99 day vigil

When baby Eva Williams, of Chorley, arrived in the world three months earlier than expected on 17th January 2024 weighing just 1.5lbs, mum and dad Rachel and Neil Williams began what turned out to be 99 day vigil besides her incubator and then her cot on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Royal Preston Hospital’s Sharoe Green Maternity Unit.

And now they have bought NICU two new incubators and three new height adjustable cots with storage after raising just over £16,000 for the hospital’s NICU-supporting mums and babies charity Baby Beat by organising a black tie ball.

Neil, a serving army officer involved in training new recruits, and Rachel, an area manager for TSB, planned the event during their time on NICU waiting for Eva to reach her go home weight of 4lbs. Neil said: “We wanted to thank the staff for all the care they gave Eva.

“We thought we might be able to raise around £8,000 to £10,000 so to raise as much as we did has been quite overwhelming. We are incredibly grateful to our families, friends and the 30 NICU staff members who bought tickets to attend the ball.

“We’re also indebted to those unable to attend but who made a donation via the Just Giving page we set up online, the local businesses that supported the ball’s auction and raffle and Manchester’s Centurion Lodge and Chorley’s Blainescough Lodge for their generous donations. As well as the cots and incubators, we were also able to buy two new microwaves for staff to replace their broken ones.”

Rachel and Neil, who have a 10-year-old son Noah, held their Baby Beat ball at Preston’s Marriott Hotel where they had had their post wedding party in October 2021 following their marriage ceremony in Portugal a few days earlier.

Vocal duo Alex and Lewis Birtwell, known professionally as the Birtwell Brothers, who had sung at the wedding party, performed again, donating their time and talent while swing singer Paul Guard, who joined the entertainment bill along with a table magician, waived his fee in return for just costs.

Dan Hill, who is head of Lancashire Teaching Hospital Charities, of which Baby Beat is part, said: “Neil and Rachel’s donation is absolutely amazing. We are extremely grateful. The three cots and the microwaves have already been delivered to NICU, which admits between 400 to 500 babies annually. The two incubators have been ordered and should arrive shortly. All the equipment will make a big difference to staff, babies and their parents.”