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Review: Baby Hospital, ITV1 Tue 21 June 2011

June 22, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

The birth of a baby is usually a joyous occasion. Most of the time, once the pain of childbirth is over, the exhilaration of a new child takes over and family life starts a new chapter at home.

Sadly, that’s not always the case. Baby Hospital (ITV1, Tuesday 21st June 2011) followed three single mothers as they struggled to cope with the reality of a premature birth.

This fly-on-the-wall documentary was filmed inside Liverpool Women’s Hospital, considered to be a centre of excellence for neonatal science. Here, consultants and nurses give the absolute best medical care possible for babies born significantly early. Sadly, many children are born with illnesses and medical complications too difficult to treat, with inevitable deaths a part of everyday life at the hospital. Thankfully, many babies do make remarkable progress and become healthy enough to leave the hospital.

The documentary, sensitively narrated by Sue Johnston, first introduces Amy. Already a mother to five children, she had a tumultuous pregnancy. At 18 weeks, she separated from her husband of six years. At 20 weeks she contracted swine flu, a disease that poses significant and life-threatening risks to both mother and baby. At 27 weeks — four months prematurely — she gave birth to Alfie. He weighed just 1lb 6oz.

The fact Alfie survived at all was a miracle. As it is, he had severe problems with all the major organs — heart, lungs, kidneys and liver — as well as suspected brain damage. From an initial “50-50″ survival estimate, he gradually declined in health, suffering a burst lung, losing weight and gradually slipping away.

Amy’s rollercoaster of emotions, in which she spent a huge amount of time at the hospital and, as such, felt torn between her family at home and staying with Alfie, lasted five days before he passed away. Before that, his family gathered for a fairly impromptu baptism. Amy’s oldest son recounted how much Alfie had impacted the whole family despite him living for less than a week.

The documentary also followed two other mums. 28-year-old Rachel gave birth to Tyler two weeks early. She already has two other children fathered by two other men. Although she keeps in touch with Tyler’s father, and they remain friends, she laments, “Everyone wants the support of a man, but it’s hard to find one in Liverpool.”

Katie gave birth to Michael but found it hard to visit him in hospital because she already has two other children, lives 14 miles away and relies on public transport.

Michael needed heart surgery, to which Katie gave written consent, but it was often weeks between visits. “People look down on me but I’m not bothered by what they think,” she says, adamant that Michael is in the best hands right now and, when he comes home, will get the same 24 hour support her other two kids currently receive.

Thankfully, both Michael and Tyler survived and went home with their mums.

Dr Chris Dewhurst, Consultant Neonatologist, sympathises with the situation many lone parents find themselves in. He rebuffs the stereotype that women become pregnant in order to get a house and benefits. At the same time, he worries about the life that awaits some of the babies discharged from the hospital.

Lead Sister for Neonatal Developmental Care, Jan Waugh, is also upset when parents can’t come to visit. She sees the benefits associated with human touch, massage, and skin-to-skin contact, saying that it’s vital for babies. If they don’t get it, particularly from a parent, they miss out and don’t grow as well. The touch, which helps in bonding a parent-child relationship, can even prevent infection and reduce pain.

The documentary is sensitively made and doesn’t come across as being judgemental. The staff give the best to the 1,000 or so babies who come into the hospital every year, regardless of their background or the social situation their parents are in.

I was also careful not to cast quick judgements over the parents featured. It would be easy to wonder how a mother might stay away from the hospital, or lament the wider situation of lone parenting, but neither is particularly helpful.

Parenting as a lone mother (or father) is a juggling act even with healthy babies and children, particularly if extended family or close friends are in short supply. I simply can’t imagine dealing with the extreme emotions of having a very ill baby, trying to look after an existing family, and deal with all the other issues that everyone goes through.

I welled up during Alfie’s hospital baptism. My hope for that family is it draws them closer together. Even the snapshot this documentary provided suggested it might. The death of a child might seem like the end, but in fact it’s just as much a beginning, though not one any parent would choose.

To the watching world, and eventually to the hospital and the medical professionals who looked after them, those three mothers and babies will become mere statistics. Yet the documentary captured part of life that, mercifully, most of us will never have to cope with.

If you’re in the UK, you can watch the programme on the ITV Player until mid July.

Did you watch the documentary. What did you think?

CBBC goes “Inside Life”

September 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

cbbc-logoCBBC will go behind the scenes of the BBC Natural History Unit’s landmark new series, Life, to find out just what it takes to get footage of the world’s most extraordinary wildlife.

CBBC scoured the country in search of 10 secret agents to embark on 10 fact-finding assignments across the UK to report back to the Life team.

The budding naturalists set to work on their assignments but what they don’t know is a secret mission awaits and they will each be sent on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

As the CBBC agents head off to the four corners of the globe the excitement begins to show as the challenge of the mission sets in. From Alaska to Madagascar, getting up close and personal with polar bears and hands on with lemurs, the CBBC agents get to work alongside the world renowned Natural History Unit as they endeavour to get the perfect shot.

This epic adventure offers a chance of a lifetime for the 10 agents who all keep a video diary and report back their exploits, all with the same goal: to find out what it takes to get the shot and capture the moment as they take the CBBC audience on their journey Inside Life.

Inside Life is ten half-an-hour programmes narrated by Barney Harwood.

Look below for full details of each programme and interview with each “secret agent”:

Polar Bears

1-Louise

Agent – Louise
AKA – Lou
Age – 14
Destination – Alaska, USA
Mission – Film polar bears in the freezing Arctic

Lou loves adventure and is set the challenge of getting top survival tips for the Life team to help them survive filming in the Arctic. She has no idea when she meets a real arctic explorer that she is about to become one herself in pursuit of polar bears in the freezing cold winds of Alaska.

How has your experience reporting for Inside Life changed you?
It has definitely made me more aware of the world and just how fragile our environment is. When I saw the Arctic ice melting with my own eyes, instead of just reading about it, it became much more real to me.

What was your scariest moment?
We had a panicky moment when a polar bear decided to investigate us, and we had to dash into the truck, but I wasn’t really scared because I was so excited to see it so closely! My scariest was probably the flight from Fairbanks to Kaktovic, which was in a tiny old 20-seater plane. It was really bumpy and my ears were very painful!

What was your most exciting moment?
Landing in Kaktovic – I looked out of the window and I saw complete whiteness, then as we got lower I started to see individual pieces of ice floating on the sea, and that is when it really hit me that I was actually going to land, in the Arctic! There were polar bears on the runway when we landed, and that was when I saw them for the first time, it was incredible.

Tell us the most interesting fact you learnt?
Oh, the amount of camera equipment you need to take to film polar bears in the Arctic for two weeks, six airport trolleys loaded higher than me!

Kimodo Dragons

2-Isobel

Agent – Isobel
AKA – Izzy
Age – 14
Destination – Komodo Island, Indonesia
Mission– Find and track Komodo Dragons

Izzy’s mission takes her to London Zoo where she learns how to spot tracks and signs of the komodo dragon from their resident expert keeper. Izzy will need her wits about her as she faces numerous challenges in what it takes to be be able to get that shot.

How has your experience reporting for Inside Life changed you?
It has made me aware of how many different opportunities the world has to offer and how big it actually is. It also made me very aware of how fragile some of the world’s ecosystems are, particularly because of the terrible damage we saw to the coral reefs.

What was your scariest moment?
At one point Doug (the cameraman) was making me run along a track to get a shot he wanted, several komodo dragons must have heard this and thought it was a deer running because we were soon surrounded by three large adult dragons looking for a meal. I was the meal. I was terrified.

What was your most exciting moment?
It was all totally amazing. There are so many, while coral reef swimming we spotted a family of clown fish living in a huge anemone, seeing wild dragons in their natural environment and waking up on my 12th birthday on the top deck of the Pearl Fisher to see the moon set and the sun rise over a tropical island.

Tell us the most interesting fact you learnt?
The monkeys on Rinca Island catch the burrowing crabs by dangling their tails into the burrows and pulling out the crabs as if they were fishing.

Gibbons

3-Bryony

Agent – Bryony
AKA – Bryony
Age – 12
Destination – Khao Yai, Thailand
Mission – Track gibbons and set up a tree platform to film them

Bryony is given the task of testing out a new filming platform to report back to the Life team. Her head for heights is put on trial when she finds out she is off to Thailand to track and film gibbons in the giant rainforest trees. Scaling the dizzy heights to film gibbons swinging through the jungle canopy and she uncovers some harsh realities on a visit to the local gibbon sanctuary.

How has your experience reporting for Inside Life changed you?
It was my first time in front of real television cameras and I really enjoyed working with the camera crew. I was reminded just how important team work is, and the experience also made me more patient, as I had to repeat things for the camera just to make sure everything was perfect. I discovered just how hard it really is to work in TV, but it definitely has not put me off!

What was your scariest moment?
I don’t get scared of very much, but I have to say that the first time I climbed a tree (in Bristol) and reached the top, it truly was frightening. Surprisingly, even though the trees in Thailand were higher I was less scared climbing. I had great trust in Tim and Pam (production team), so found the whole thing much less scary! As for the animals, none of them scared me, not even the tiger that had been trapped in a cage all its life, you would think it would have scared me going so close up to it, but you could see that it was really very friendly.

What was your most exciting moment?
Definitely revealing the banner with my overseas mission. I had absolutely no clue what was coming and the moment I read it my heart literally skipped a beat! When I climbed the tree in Thailand and saw (even after all those weeks that the camera crew had been out there and got no footage) a family of gibbons, which was what (after all), the whole experience was for.

Tell us the most interesting fact you learnt?
It wasn’t very nice but the most interesting thing that I learnt was about the poaching of gibbons and wild animals for food or money. It was horrible to see just how bad things were, especially the bad treatment of animals that were really gentle and wouldn’t hurt a fly. It was definitely interesting, just not very nice.

Garter Snakes

4-Matt

Agent – Matt
AKA – Matty
Age – 14
Destination – Manitoba, Canada
Mission – Film mass emergence of snakes with a thermal camera

Reptile mad Matt is sent on a mission to investigate how the RAF use thermal cameras to find people and animals, what he doesn’t know is that his knew found skills will be put to the test. Every year, deep in the heart of Canada, thousands of snakes come wriggling out of their dens and Matt’s new skills will be used to reveal some unusual cold blooded garter snake behaviour.

How has your experience reporting for Inside Life changed you?
Since I’ve come back from Canada I feel like a different person, I’m much more confident at doing things than I was, and I want to take part in things much more as well. I’ve been on holiday to Portugal where I have been looking at lizards and snakes and following their tracks in the sand.

What was your scariest moment?
There were no scary moments just enjoyable and exciting ones, that make the adrenalin pump through your veins and makes you want to do it again and again.

What was your most exciting moment?
There were loads of exciting moments but the best were handling the red sided garter snakes, going up in the helicopter and walking around the zoo in Canada looking at all the different animals especially the ones I hadn’t seen or heard of before.

Tell us the most interesting fact you learnt?
One of the most interesting things I saw was the red sided garter snakes side-winding on the snow, another interesting thing was the thermal imaging camera and how it picked up the smallest amount of heat through the undergrowth. The White buffalo was another interesting sight and I enjoyed the story about its history.

Frigate Birds

5-Greg

Agent – Gregory
AKA – Greg
Age – 13
Destination – Tobago, West Indies
Mission – Film Frigate birds from a helicopter

Console-ace agent Greg will need all his gaming skills to capture the tricky shots necessary for the Life team. Using the latest aerial filming equipment from Hollywood it’s up to Greg to film frigate birds from a helicopter.

How has your experience reporting for Inside Life changed you?
Inside Life has changed my approach towards animals and their habitats. It’s shown me how different species treat each other and the world around them. It’s given me an insight into how the parents treat their young compared to other species of life.

What was your scariest moment?
My scariest moment of the experience definitely has to be when I and the film crew were reporting with Steve on a huge slope next to a frigate bird’s nest because either side of us there was a huge drop down to the rocky shore.

What was your most exciting moment?
My most exciting moment was when I went up in a helicopter, high above Tobago. It was my first time in a helicopter and it was the most amazing experience.

Tell us the most interesting fact you learnt?
Just learning about how cameramen work their equipment was incredible for me. Getting to watch them in action I see how much hard work and the extreme lengths that cameramen go to for the right shot. They go where no one has ever gone before and dare to do what no one has ever done before.

Fish Frenzy

6-sam

Agent – Sam
Age – 14
Destination – Patagonia, South America
Mission – Find and film a giant bait ball

Sam is packed off to South Wales in search of expert advice on spotting dolphins in a bid to help the life team film a bait ball (shoal of fish) out at sea. Spanish speaking Sam has no inkling that his language skills will be needed to complete his assignment in Patagonia.

How has your experience reporting for inside life changed you?
I used to watch nature programs like Planet Earth, and I found them breathtakingly amazing but I didn’t realise just how much it took to capture five seconds. Inside Life has opened my eyes to wildlife in a way I couldn’t have possibly imagined, I thought I knew lots about wildlife but I was barely scraping the surface!

What was your scariest moment?
It was scary when we went up in a tiny four-seater plane to look for whales along the coastline. The takeoff was one of the scariest moments, and I was holding on to my seat for dear life and it didn’t help that the wind was blowing us off course! However the views from up there were amazing and I realised this was a once in a lifetime experience and I tried to enjoy every moment – no matter how turbulent.

What was your most exciting moment?
There are so many moments – when we came face to face with amazing animals on the trip, but for me, the most exciting moment was when we heard that there was a whale in the bay. We ran outside and there was a crowd of people all rushing to catch sight of the whale and take pictures, this made me realise how important Life and Inside Life really are, they will change people’s perspective and views on nature and wildlife altogether, for the better.

Tell us something interesting you learnt?
While in Patagonia we were told of a Southern Right Whale they had found earlier that year with a big harpoon in its side. They wanted to remove the harpoon to give the poor whale some relief and also try to discover who had committed this awful crime. When they inspected the harpoon they discovered that it was really old and rusty and realised that the whale was over 150 years old!

Tigers

7-Scarlett

Agent – Scarlett
Age – 12
Destination – Bandhavgarh, India
Mission – Record the sound of tigers in the wild

Getting up close and personal is a must to capture the stunning sound of tigers that the Life team require. Scarlett has never been abroad let alone come face to face with wild tigers. Her mission to India includes recording the alarm call sound of the animals that share the forest with these predators.

How has your experience reporting for Inside Life changed you?
When I found out about the mission in India, I was a bit dumbstruck because it came out of nowhere and I couldn’t believe it was going to happen to me. The whole experience has made me more independent, self confident and aware of different our worlds are – India is a very interesting and very hot country!

What was your scariest moment?
The scariest moment was definitely coming across a giant bull elephant when we were trying to film the tigers. I am frightened to death of elephants and they are so huge in real life you just don’t think they are going to be that big so when I saw it my heart kind of froze.

What was your most exciting moment?
There were a few really exciting moments, flying in a plane for the first time, seeing my first tiger up close, out and about in the wild, and seeing the Taj Mahal, it truly is one of the wonders of the world.

Tell us the most interesting fact you learnt?
Tigers are even more beautiful in the wild than in captivity and soon no one will be able to see them like this if we keep taking away their habitat.

Rock Climbing Fish

8-Jake

Agent – Jacob
AKA – Jake
Age – 12
Destination – Hawaii, USA
Mission – Film fish climbing up a waterfall

Jacob is an expert climber and jumped at the chance to check out specialist kit used by the life team. Little does Jacob know that his research will take him to Hawaii on the trail of this remarkable fish, known as a Gobie, with some interesting ocean encounters on the way, and an overactive volcano.

How has your experience reporting for Inside Life changed you?
Taking part in the series has changed the way I see TV, as there is lots of work involved and lots of planning. I really enjoyed working as part of the production team and would love to do something like that in the future. I really enjoyed all technical stuff especially the cameras.

What was your scariest moment?
We had to go out diving at night, so that we could see the manta rays feeding, and it was the scariest part because it was pitch black and you really couldn’t see anything.

What was your most exciting moment?
I hadn’t really seen manta rays before apart from at aquariums in tanks and they look so small. When you see them in the wild they are humungous and swimming all around you it was so exciting.

Tell us the most interesting fact you learnt?
Before I went on the mission I had never heard of it before and I genuinely didn’t believe that gobies could climb until I saw it, and they really do climb up waterfalls, they do it with a sucker underneath their tummy.

Bahamas Reef

9-James

Agent – James
Age – 15
Destination – Bahamas, The Caribbean
Mission – Film the sinking of a wreck to form an artificial reef

Gadget fanatic James is sent on an exercise to test out an underwater filming kit. He has no clue that he’ll be using it for real in the Bahamas on his mission to sink a wreck onto the sea bed and turn it into a reef. That is if he can learn to scuba dive first.

How has your experience reporting for Inside Life changed you?
Overall, it was a truly amazing and unforgettable experience, and I’ve gained a lot of confidence. Learning to dive made me more aware of life under the sea and also gave me and my Dad a new hobby.

What was your scariest moment?
My scariest moment was when I had to dive for the first time, it’s not as easy as it looks!

What was your most exciting moment?
It was really exciting when I watched the footage of the boat sink because it meant that all of my hard work and preparation had been worth it and made that moment possible.

Tell us the most interesting fact you learnt?
Whilst I was in the Bahamas I realised that there is so much life underwater and so much more exploring to do.

Madagascar Lemurs

10-billy

Agent – Billy
AKA – Bill
Age – 14
Destination – Madagascar, Indian Ocean
Mission – Find ring-tailed lemurs behaving badly!

Bill heads to Woburn Safari Park where he is greeted by some cheeky lemurs and their keeper. His assignment is to research their behaviour, but he has no idea his mission won’t be complete until he arrives in Madagascar! The Life team need to track down and film a group of lemurs behaving badly, and Billy is determined to catch the naughty primates red handed.

How has your experience reporting for Inside Life changed you?
It’s the first time that I have been anywhere like Madagascar – it was an amazing experience, the wildlife and the sights and smells it was all really exciting. I really want to travel more, see the world, and see animals in their natural environment.

What was your scariest moment?
The very first time I went to the reserve was pretty scary, because the lemurs were all running around freely. I’d never been so close to wildlife and it took a while for me to get used to them being around me but when I got used to it, it was really interesting to see them.

What was your most exciting moment?
The most exciting part of my trip to Madagascar was when we went up to a peak, near the city; we could see right across the island and the views were amazing!

Tell us the most interesting fact you learnt?
I really enjoyed learning about the country, because Madagascar is unique plants and animals that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.

Join the discussion! Talk about BBC children’s programmes on our forum.

UK TV Watch: 1st-7th May 2009

April 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Welcome to the Family Relationships Magazine weekly roundup of family/relationships TV highlights for the coming week.

Please be aware that these are generally programmes about families and relationships, and are not necessarily suitable for all-age/family viewing.

Friday 1st May

If spying on celebrity couples is your thing, and you’re not sick of them yet, then Katie & Peter: Stateside (ITV2, 10pm) is for you. This week, Katie meets her new horse which has just come out of quarantine after being flown over to America.

Alternatively, there’s sure to be some cringeworthy material in Celebrity Wife Swap (10.05pm, E4) as eighties pop star Sinitta trades places with Sandra, the wife of actor Bruce Jones.

Saturday 2nd May

Take on the Takeaway (11.30am, BBC1) sees Ken Hom trying to convince a busy couple that it is possible to cook quick and healthy food instead of relying on the local Chinese takeaway.

Family quizzes your thing? Try the new series of All Star Mr & Mrs (6.20pm ITV1) which sees Boyzone’s Keith Duffy and his wife Lisa, Brigitte Nielsen and Mattia, and Peter Shilton and Sue battle it out to see who knows the most about their other half.

Tuesday 5th May

The second part of the fourth series of Born to be Different (9pm, Channel 4) follows six disabled children who have features in the series since birth. This time, we see them aged nine. Each child has their own particular battle to fight; some face major operations, some require constant support and medication; and for one it’s a battle just to stay alive.

More celebrity following in Claire Richards: My Big Fat Wedding (9pm, BBC3). The former Steps singer sets out to shed some pounds from her size 20 frame in time for her wedding, a task which sees her face off with the paparazzi.

Wednesday 6th May

The World’s Strictest Parents (8pm, BBC3) continues as teenagers Lizzie Pol and Stefan Alvarez travel to Ghana to live with a middle-class Christian couple who prioritise chores and ban the pair from romantic relationships.

Thursday 7th May

A new four-part documentary series, Keep it in the Family (9pm, BBC2), follows the family of Gary Don, who has dedicated his career to the family auction house and has persuaded his 28-year-old son Jamie to pick up the mantle.

On Channel 4 at 9pm, Madeleine Was Here looks at how parents Kate and Gerry are dealing with the lack of knowledge about their daughter’s whereabouts, two years on from her disappearance.

Real-life wedding preps, under the camera of course, in Don’t Tell the Bride (8pm, BBC3).

BBC Newsround to show documentary about bereavement

March 13, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

bbc-newsround-logo.pngNever afraid to avoid deep and difficult issues, the BBC’s Newsround is to screen Gone, a special documentary exploring the issue of bereavement and how it affects children’s lives.

Barney Harwood tells the story of four children who have all lost someone they love.

Eight-year-old Bradley from Welling, Kent, lost his dad in May 2006. His father was a truck driver who wasn’t home during the week. One weekend he never came home and the following week he was found dead in his cab, having suffered a heart malfunction.

Sarika, 11, lost her mum to cancer in 2005. Sarika knew that her mum was very sick but had no idea that the illness was terminal.

11-year-old Katie from Preston lost her nine-year-old brother, James, when he was fatally knocked down while out cycling.

And 11-year-old Joe from Essex lost his granddad last March.

All four of the children in Gone contacted Newsround through the programme’s website after the show asked children if they felt able to share their stories of bereavement. Hundreds of other young people also got in touch to share their stories with the programme.

The programme airs on the CBBC channel at 6.30pm on Monday 30th March, repeated on BBC One the next day.

“Being Dad”: call for fathers to take part in documentary

June 3, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

being_dad.jpg

Dads with children aged 0-3 are wanted to take part in a new documentary series.

“Being Dad” is the “dadumentary” DVD that delivers real information to Dads to demystify the whole process – and is now being filmed for Dads in Ireland, Scotland and England.

Dads can be any age, and filming takes place over the next couple of months in five locations: Central London, Bath, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Dublin.

The documentary makers explain:

“Filming takes about two hours and you’ll join five other dads in a relaxed environment talking about everything from conception to birth and bringing the baby home. We’ll provide you with free food and plenty of beers. This is a great opportunity to be a part of the first UK and Irish film that inspires and informs future dads to be. This will make a great heirloom, will get you in your partner’s good books, as well as making sure that future dads can legitimately avoid the pregnancy manuals!”

For more details email Victoria Newlands at victoria@nobull-communications.co.uk or phone 01628 526208.

Filming dates are:

Central London: Friday, June 20 / Tuesday, July 1 @ 6.30pm
Bath: Sunday, June 22 @ 4.30pm
Manchester: Tuesday, June 24 @ 6.30pm
Edinburgh: Wednesday, June 25 @ 6.30pm
Dublin: Friday, June 27 @ 6.30pm

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