Charlotte Jean Maternity Hospital is a labour of love.

Almost 24 years ago, Melissa Fortune became the first baby born at the hospital in Ventry St, Alexandra.

So began a legacy that would play out for the next 23 years.

Melissa, who was due on Christmas Day, was born to Margaret-Anne and Ronald Klok on December 28, 1997, in the comforts of the newly founded maternity hospital.

Since then, 1579 babies have been born at Charlotte Jean.

There have been almost 3500 admissions for birth and postnatal stays.

As Mrs Klok puts it, the facility was more than just a birthing unit.

She said the facility’s founder, the late Jenny O’Brien, became a mother figure to her when she did not have her own family nearby.

‘‘I was so blessed to find her amongst everything.

‘‘They gave me support when I had no family support.

‘‘I felt looked after and loved and safe with Jenny and Charlotte Jean and it provided a beautiful environment to deliver a baby.’’

She said her time at the hospital was ‘‘absolutely wonderful’’.

The Kloks moved to Christchurch when Melissa was 3.

Melissa (22) had since married Caspian Fortune, who had family based in Alexandra.

When Mrs Klok discovered the maternity hospital was to close, her reaction was one of shock.

She agreed a facility should be available to everyone, otherwise it would be a ‘‘failure of duty’’ by the health system.

Mother of six Joanne Campbell had three of her children at the maternity hospital.

She described it as a lovely place where both parents could bond with their newborn in a caring environment.

Mrs Campbell had her son Sol-Jah (22) and daughters Grace (20) and Meriana (18) at the facility and has fond memories of the experience.

Grace, who had her first baby, Marama Rose, at Charlotte Jean last year, was expecting again and hoped she could use the facility one last time in the new year.

Mrs Campbell credited Jenny O’Brien for having the foresight and ‘‘really great vision’’ to establish Charlotte Jean, ultimately providing mothers and families with a great service.

For Carole Laidlaw-van Dyk, Charlotte Jean Maternity Hospital was more than just a birthing facility.

Not only did she give birth to her daughter Lucy there in 2002, she also worked at the facility as a midwife and was now working there on a casual basis as a nurse.

‘‘I’ve definitely enjoyed my time working for them. ‘‘I couldn’t wish for better employers.’’

Mother of five Alana Bloomfield was just 17 years old when she had her first child, Tenika, in May 1999.

As a young mother, she was scared but felt at ease while in the care of Charlotte Jean, which seemed more like a home than a hospital, she said.

Mrs Bloomfield had also given birth in a hospital, but ‘‘hands down’’ would have preferred to have all her children at Charlotte Jean.

Claudine Hesson also praised the facility.

She gave birth to her son, Matt, in Dunedin in December 1997, but was transferred to Charlotte Jean for postpartum treatment.

He was the first baby to be cared for at the facility.

‘‘It was just a wonderful place to come back to, to have those first few days there after giving birth in Dunedin, to be supported in a local area closer to family.’’

She said it would be a shame for the community if it did not have the same service available in the future.

Another mother who praised the facility was Jade Hinton.

Ms Hinton, who was initially reluctant to use the facility, gave birth to her daughter, Gwendolyn Dewey, there in January 2013.

She was pleased she did, and had been an advocate of the service ever since.

Ms Hinton had previously experienced a hospital birth with her son while living in Sydney, which she had liked the idea of in case anything went wrong.

‘‘But we got to Charlotte Jean with three minutes to spare so there was no way I was getting to Dunedin.’’

The outcome and experience could not have been better.

Everything from the nurses to the food was amazing, she said.

She now recommended the service to other expectant mums who were not sure about where they would like to give birth.

‘‘I say ‘no, have them at Charlotte Jean’.”

‘‘I say make the most of it because it’s an amazing experience and it’s a great way to start your life with your new baby.’’

She now hoped a Charlotte Jean would be re-established at Dunstan Hospital so the same care and level of service would still be available.

Putting names to faces
Year Name Month born

1997 Melissa Fortune December
1998 Sol-Jah Campbell October
1999 Tenika Bloomfield May
2000 Grace Campbell July
2001 Brittany Horrell December
2002 Lucy van Dyk April
2003 Lia Chapman November
2004 Baylee Potter May
2005 Sam Chapman February
2006 Ben James January
2007 Angus Hanning May
2008 Jamie Dunnet June
2009 Quinn McCutcheon July
2010 Tayla Potter August
2011 Amelia Murdoch July
2012 Ollie Crawford April
2013 Gwendolyn Dewey January
2014 Ty Ussher March
2015 Blu Scott July
2016 Jedd Stewart February
2017 Cage Stewart October
2018 Axel Hunter May
2019 Kora Bedggood May
2020 Chase Jackson July

Otago Daily Times 29 November 2020