Three months ago the Tiny Tickers staff team met up for our annual pre-Christmas get together. In between silly party games and Christmas jumper selfies, the six of us discussed our plans for 2020 – setting objectives to continue the excellent growth the charity has seen, and to do even more to help families affected by congenital heart disease.
It was just three short months ago, but now it feels like a lifetime.
Coronavirus has arrived and changed everything. Our funding. Our priorities. Our services. Our entire approach to working.
But – and here’s the key thing – the need to help babies with CHD hasn’t changed. The number of babies born with poorly hearts hasn’t changed. The number of newborns heading home with an undiagnosed and potentially life-threatening condition hasn’t changed.
So much of the world is closing around us, but our cause hasn’t closed.
So our new mission – our new priority – is for the charity to do what we can during this tumultuous period. To help now, while also ensuring we are still here to help in the future.
The lockdown has meant we’ve had to pause some services, but they will be back just as soon as it’s safe. Last week, we had to suspend face-to-face sonographer training and, this week, we’ve had no choice but to pause our projects placing pulse oximetry testing machines and situs dolls in hospitals.
These are gut-wrenching decisions. Three of our flagship projects and, in the case of the face-to-face sonographer training, the core of our work ever since the charity was formed back in 1999. I’m still getting my head around it.
Instead, we’re fast-forwarding other projects that we can work on during the lockdown. Online training courses; new resources for health professionals; new support and advice projects for parents. All projects that we’ve wanted to launch for a long time, but that we’ve not had the resources to focus on. We’ve jumped eight new projects to the top of our list to replace those we can’t work on at the moment.
Our work helping patient families takes on even more importance that normal. I know how scared and unsure parents are feeling right now, because I am one of them. My own daughter has CHD – my family has had the same dilemmas about risks, vulnerable groups, schools, social distancing and self-isolation that other heart families across the UK have had. So we’re working around the clock to share the latest official guidance, plus well-resourced information and advice to help families during this time of great uncertainty and fear. We’re constantly talking to the NHS, cardiac experts in the UK and overseas, and surgical units so we can keep you updated with reliable information. We get it. We’re here for you.
Our funding is taking a big hit, as all charities are finding. Events cancelled; individuals understandably feeling the financial strain; corporates unable to help like normal; funders withdrawing – it’s a very worrying time. Like many small charities, we don’t have deep pockets and we try to put as much of our funding as is prudent straight into our project work. We’re working flat out to calculate what it all means for us.
We’re taking every sensible measure to reduce our spending on non-urgent items but, I’ll be frank, we have always been a very financially prudent and lean organisation so we don’t have many areas where we can make substantial savings and still deliver the same services.
Therefore, I am so, so grateful to all our funders and supporters who are able to stick with us at this critical time – we need you more than ever and every pound you raise or donate is even more precious now. It is your on-going support that will see us through this most difficult time.
The year 2020 was supposed to be one of celebration for Tiny Tickers. It’s our birthday year – our 20th anniversary – with events and plans galore. The celebrations may be cancelled, but our resolve goes on.
So, it may not be business as usual, but we’re still in business, and we’re still in the business of helping save babies’ lives.
Our sleeves are rolled up; our new plans are set. With your support, we’ll ride out this storm whilst continuing to do everything we can for heart families and the health professionals who look after them.
Thank you. Take care and stay safe,
Jon Arnold, Tiny Tickers CEO