The time to say goodbye

LESS than a year ago Gippsland mother Tara Lea made the heartbreaking decision to turn off her four day-old son’s life support.

Eleven-pound Noah was born with shoulder dystopia – a medical birthing emergency where a baby’s head has been born, but one of the shoulders becomes stuck behind the mother’s pelvis. This inhibits a newborn’s air supply, as a baby cannot start breathing until its body is also born.

Once delivered, Noah was flown to Mercy Women’s Hospital with brain damage and later died.

While Tara and husband Russell were able to farewell Noah in a private hospital room with a cuddle cot, they were unable to bring him home to his three siblings to say goodbye.

“It would have been much nicer to have a few days with him at home to let the shock wear off as part of the grieving process,” Tara said.

Tara’s experience has led her on a fundraising quest to help ensure parents are provided with the opportunity she never had.

Starting Saturday, she will trek with her family’s camels from Traralgon to Bairnsdale to raise awareness of miscarriage, neonatal deaths and stillbirths and fund a Gippsland community cuddle cot.

A cuddle cot is a baby bassinet or cot which features a ‘cooling mat’ that sits underneath a deceased infant’s body, directly cooling the spinal cord to slow deterioration.

There are currently cuddle cots at Sale and Warragul hospitals, but Tara said a community cuddle cot would provide family members with additional time to say their final farewells.

“We would have loved to have our children hold their baby brother as they eagerly wanted to and say our goodbyes gradually,” she said.

“Since we now realise the importance of grieving to bereaved families we want to bless other families with the opportunity… through Noah’s legacy make an important loving statement to grieving families.”

Tara is aiming to raise $5000 through her 150-kilometre trek for a cot, but would ideally like to purchase two, to cover East Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley at an estimated cost of $10,000. She hopes her camel walk will attract attention and encourage community participation at a donation of $15 per kilometre towards the cots.

“The walking parts are easy, but I know I’m going to have to explain my story a few times,” Tara said.

“I have to almost disconnect myself personally from my story to tell it, but it’s a story that needs telling.”

Tara’s walk kicks off from Traralgon’s Gippsland Plains Rail Trail at 8am on Saturday.

From there she will walk to Toongabbie where she will take part in a community barbecue and meet and greet at the Mechanics Hall at 6pm. All are welcome.

Visit or search ‘Charity Camel Trek’ on Facebook for donation details or to register for the trek.