"Im lucky to have two healthy boys, thanks to the skill and dedication of the team at Southmead Hospital. I am also grateful to the military community who serve us in many ways."
A mortgage advisor in Bristol is waiving broker fees for medical staff, military personnel and veterans - to thank ‘heroes serving community and country’.
Matt Colley, who heads Moving Experience, wants to thank those who saved his children’s lives and cared for them in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
And the dad-of two, whose own father served in the RAF, is also donating money from their commission to two charities supporting a hospital in the city and the armed forces.
Matt, 45, said: “I’m lucky to have two healthy boys, thanks to the skill and dedication of the team at Southmead Hospital.
“I am also grateful to the military community who serve us in many ways, including setting up hospitals during this pandemic. This is our way to thank the heroes serving our community and country.”
The team at Moving Experience, which also provides protection cover for events such as sickness and death, is fundraising for Southmead Hospital Charity and SSAFA – The Armed Forces Charity, that supports Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and their Families.
Life-threatening complications at birth
Matt’s first son was 10 days overdue and labour was induced. But he was in the back-to-back position, with the back of his head against his mother’s spine and became stuck.
Baby Theo developed both fluid on his lungs and an infection - and had to be delivered quickly using forceps and ventouse.
He was taken to the NICU to be given a course of antibiotics, and later drip-fed after he failed to feed properly and lost weight.
Matt said: “The day before his birth, we had been laughing and excited about meeting him. We felt that everything was under control
“The next day the person I loved was drugged and surrounded by professionals, who were concerned about my unborn child and monitoring his heartbeat.
“As a father looking on, there was absolutely nothing I could do for my partner or son. It was a terrifying experience and I felt helpless.
“But I never failed to be impressed by the experts looking after him, who kept us informed and reassured while doing their job.”
Mother and baby both stayed in hospital for an extra 10 days receiving treatment, until given the all-clear.
Matt said: “We felt such relief and gratitude as we carried him out in the car seat. Southmead Hospital is a special place, with a committed and phenomenal team.”
More medical care was required three months later when Theo was diagnosed with intussusception, a serious condition in which part of the intestine slides into an adjacent part of the intestine. He was treated at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.
Matt said: “As he was put to sleep before his procedure, I held his hand. Then I watched in awe as team of experts cared for him.
“We are lucky to have such support in our city and short drive away, whereas we met other people who had travelled from around the South West and Wales.”
Two and a half years later, Matt and Rachel were back at Southmead Hospital when their second son, Harry, was born prematurely with under-developed lungs and jaundice.
Once again Matt found himself alongside a baby who was taken to NICU unit, but this time was relieved that at least he went straight to the in the High Dependency Unit, and not into intensive care where his older brother had been.
Matt said: “Holding my tiny baby, I realised how fragile life is and how much we owed to the people who dedicate their lives to helping others. Simply saying thank you did not feel like enough.”
Moving Experience has already raised over £6,000 for Southmead Hospital Charity and will continue to fundraise for both charities until the end of the year and beyond.
Adrian Brown, corporate and community manager at Southmead Hospital Charity, said: “Thank you to Matt and everyone at Moving Experience for their support of our charity and our hospital – this is a wonderful example of a business making a real difference in their community.
“The hospital’s NICU and maternity departments are always thrilled to see former patients and their parents return happy and healthy and they are truly touched when that thank you is turned into fundraising that can help them save even more lives.”
Matt’s dad, Pete, 74, served in the RAF for 12 years and his posts included Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, the largest RAF station, and Gütersloh, in Germany.
He was in the Number 19 Squadron, which had been the fighter command that spent most of the Second World War fighting the Battle of Britain – one of the decisive battles that saw the RAF defeat a German attempt to gain air superiority over southern England and invade Britain.
He joined the Air Force in 1964 as an Aircraft Electrician. After starting as a leading aircraftsman corporal and he worked his way up to Corporal by the time he retired in 1976.
Matt, who was born while his dad was still serving, said: “When my dad speaks to his grandchildren about aircraft & his time in the RAF he becomes much more animated.
“I think he had some great adventures and tells stories about his travels around the world, including flying over Mount Everest. I’m very proud of him, including how he adapted to civilian life and retrained after redundancy.”
Matt wants to give back to the military community, which he said would have been like a family to his parents. For this reason, he is offering discounted mortgage and protection advice to military personnel and veterans, as well as raising money for SSAFA – The Armed Forces Charity, that supports Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and their Families.
The charity provides lifelong support to serving men and women and veterans from the British Armed Forces and their families or dependents
Matt, who has friends and clients who have served in the armed forces, said: “I have seen how a safe and stable place to call home can mean more to military families than others can understand.”
From setting up Nightingale hospitals to delivering PPE, the Armed Forces have been playing a leading role in the response to the pandemic.
Matt said: “I believe we are very fortunate to have the support of our Armed Forces during this difficult time, and I’m not sure they get the recognition they deserve.”
A spokesperson for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, said: “We’d like to say a massive thank you for Matt’s fundraising efforts – every penny raised will allow us to continue our vital work supporting the military community, whenever they need us. During these difficult times, generosity such as this allows us to provide much needed support on emotional, practical and financial issues”.
* To find out more about NHS and military discounts, visit the community site.