When Kiwi artist Fatu Feu’u’s twin girls were born two months premature, they were so small they fitted into one incubator.
“Each child could fit into my palm – just a little bigger than that. It was a shock to everybody. The doctor said, ‘Give it time, we don’t know [what will happen]’.”
Those girls, Helen and Gina, are now 46 years old, happy, healthy women with their own families and careers. Feu’u credits the incubator with helping to give his daughters – as well as a son who had to live in an incubator for the first few days of his life – a fighting chance at life.
So when the opportunity came up to help a cause that is looking to help save the lives of millions of children around the world, he jumped at it.
Feu’u is one of dozens of artists who have given pieces of their work to help a campaign driven by Kiwi inventor Sir Ray Avery. He has designed an incubator, the LifePod, intended to be an affordable and better choice for hospitals in developing countries. An incubator is used to nurse premature and sick newborns in a neutral thermal environment. Unlike conventional incubators, the LifePods can run with tap water rather than needing purified water, which can be hard to obtain in developing countries. The new design is also more durable than traditional incubators and costs about $2000 to make, compared to up to $44,000. Sir Ray and his wife Lady Anna’s charity, Medical Mondiale, is aiming to raise up to $2 million to make the first round of incubators, which will be distributed to developing countries, including those in the Pacific.
“When I was working in developing countries, one of the most common things I’d see would be a dead baby waiting to be collected by its parents after being born pre-term and it didn’t have access to an incubator.
“And another common thing was a dead incubator pushed into a corridor because it wasn’t designed to work in a developing country.” That encouraged him to come up with a design that could be used in countries without a reliable power supply, air-conditioned rooms and easy access to purified water, he said.
“I want it to be in every provincial hospital in the world. Making it is one thing, but getting it out there to be used is another.”
The art auction features works from artists including Dick Frizzell, Marti Friedlander, Daniella Hulme, John Radford, Peter Hackett and Emma Bass.
What: Medicine Mondiale LifePod Art Auction
When: 7pm, 5 November 2015
Where: Viewings are being held at Webb’s on Saturday 31 October and Sunday 1 November. The auction will take place at the Auckland Art Gallery.
Source: Vaimoana Tapaleao, The New Zealand Herald, 26 September 2015.