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Donate £10 to send a hospital the doll that helps sonographers scan tiny hearts

Every year, 1000 newborn babies with congenital heart disease (CHD) leave UK hospitals with their heart defect undetected. This puts them at risk of going into heart failure, which can have serious implications on their quality of life.

Tragically, some babies will die before getting the treatment that could save them.

At Tiny Tickers, we want to increase early detection rates of cardiac conditions because we know that spotting a defect early can improve a baby’s chances of survival and long-term quality of life. One of the main ways we do this is by training the sonographers who carry out pregnancy scans (20 week scans) to have the skills and confidence to detect heart defects in unborn babies.

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To further assist the sonographers who scan babies at pregnancy scans, we created the situs doll. Each doll will help sonographers assess the tiny hearts of the babies they scan at 20 weeks gestation.

Since 2016, we have trained over 2,000 sonographers at hundreds of UK hospitals. Our specialist sonographer training is part of the reason detection rates of CHD have increased from 23% to 53.5% (NICOR statistics).

How does a situs doll help?

Our Head of Training, Anne Rhodes, explains why she created situs dolls and how they help save lives:

‘One of the first things a sonographer does when starting a 20 week anatomy scan is to find out which way round the baby is lying.

Babies can lie in any position in the womb and this changes all the time as the baby moves around. They can be lying with their head up towards mum’s head, they can be upside down or on their side, curled up or stretched out.

It is important to work out which is the left and right side of the baby because the sonographer needs to check that the baby’s internal organs are in the right place.

Donate a Doll
Anne with a situs doll

Understanding which way round the baby is lying inside the mother is one aspect of the scan that can be very challenging. Working out where the baby’s head and spine are and then imagining the position of the baby can be difficult.

To help with this, while out delivering training to sonographers, I came to realise that by physically placing a baby doll (a similar size to a 20 weeks fetus) over the mother’s abdomen in the same position as the baby is lying, it helped the sonographer to work out the baby’s right and left side.

Then, I dressed the doll in a t-shirt which has an anatomical diagram of the heart on it. This helps the sonographer see which way the heart should be pointing. The heart diagram also has lines through it – these demonstrate where the scan probe should be over the heart to obtain all the views required in accordance with the Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme (FASP).

This is a simple, effective and practical way of confirming orientation and helps the sonographer to obtain the views they need when the baby is in different positions.’

Donate a Doll

Our mission is to ensure that every sonographer has access to a situs doll, to assist them with scanning unborn babies. Each doll costs just £10 and will help a whole sonography team in a hospital as they scan thousands of pregnant women every year. 

Please help us supply situs dolls to maternity units. When you make your £10 gift, you can name your doll after a loved one and your named doll will help sonographers when they scan unborn babies.

With your £10 donation we will:

Or text DOLL to 70085 to donate £10. This costs £10 plus a standard rate message. 

Once you have donated, please email and let us know your name, the name you would like to give to your doll and a short tribute message (optional).

Questions? Read the FAQs here.

Sienna’s Story

Sienna’s mum, Kirsty had numerous scans when she was pregnant, but unfortunately the fact that Sienna had a serious heart defect, Transposition of the Great Arteries, was not picked up.

Kirsty says, ‘When the doctors came to examine Sienna after she was born, they couldn’t check her heart because she was crying so much. We left the hospital and went home with a seemingly healthy baby.

I was breastfeeding Sienna and, for the first two days, everything went well. But then she just stopped latching on. I became increasingly concerned about her breathing, which was fast and rapid. I mentioned this to the midwife, who told me it was normal for a newborn. However, something just didn’t feel right to me.

When Sienna was one week old, she went a whole day without feeding. That night she was groggy and wouldn’t settle. The GP checked Sienna’s tummy and said there was nothing wrong with her, but I was still concerned, so I took Sienna to the midwife clinic. By that point, Sienna had turned grey. The midwife checked her heart rate and it was going really fast, so she called an ambulance’.

By the time doctors diagnosed Sienna’s heart defect, Sienna was in heart failure and critically ill. Kirsty  knows how close they came to losing her. The open heart surgery Sienna had when she was 16 days old saved her life.

Kirsty says, ‘I am still in shock when I think about what happened. It’s something you can’t imagine anyone going through and yet it happened to us. I was so unprepared.

Sienna is now three years old and doing really well.  I know how lucky we are to have Sienna with us.

Had Sienna’s heart defect been diagnosed during one of my many pregnancy scans, things would have been so different. We would have had the chance to learn about her condition and be fully prepared for her arrival. She would have had the medical care she needed as soon as she arrived. Instead, she became dangerously ill before she received a diagnosis. That’s why the early detection of heart defects is so vital.’

For just £10, you can provide a sonography department with this vital tool to help them diagnose heart conditions like Sienna’s in unborn babies. 

Early detection of CHD saves lives. Please help the health professionals who detect heart conditions in unborn babies by donating today.

or text DOLL to 70085 to donate £10. This costs £10 plus a standard rate message.

Donate a Doll in honour of a loved one

In December 2014, Linda Atkins was preparing to welcome twin granddaughters into her family, when a scan revealed one of the babies had a congenital heart defect called Truncus Arteriosus. Ruby and Francesca arrived in late March and Ruby spent a week in ICU where doctors decided to delay surgery until she gained some more weight. They were both allowed home but, sadly, after four days, Ruby’s condition suddenly deteriorated and she died aged eleven days.

Donate a Doll Ruby

Francesca is now a lively four year old who is very much aware of Ruby’s existence, and loves to look at photographs of the two of them together. Linda says, ‘if asked, I always say that I have nine grandchildren because Ruby will never be forgotten and what better memorial can I give her than helping the families of other babies in a similar position?’

Linda has donated a doll named Ruby. Her doll will be sent to a sonography team at a UK hospital, where she will help the sonographers who scan tiny hearts. 

or text DOLL to 70085 to donate £10. This costs £10 plus a standard rate message.

Once you have donated, please email and let us know your name, the name you would like to give to your doll and a short tribute message (optional).

We will send you a digital copy of your doll’s birth certificate and a photo of your doll.