Nominee: A premmie dad on a mission to make a difference


Nominee Profile

Rob has been nominated for our 2014 Premmie Hero Volunteer Awards by Allison Schleef.

Premmie Hero Volunteer Award Nominee

Premmie Hero Volunteer Award Nominee

Rob Van Driel is the ‘ Daddy on a mission’ after the early arrival of his daughter, Charlie, at 31 weeks gestation in June last year. Charlie was six weeks old when she had to have an eye test to check for signs of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a condition that can affect premature babies born under 32 weeks gestation, like Charlie, when the blood vessels in their eyes stop growing or grow abnormally. Not treated, it can cause blindness.

The day came when her eyes were to be examined. The nurses dropped an anaesthetic into Charlie’s eyes and then the neonatal ophthalmologist arrived. Rob was told that she wouldn’t feel any pain, just discomfort. The ophthalmologist used a lid speculum to hold her eyelids open. Charlie let out a scream and, at that very moment, he fell apart. He couldn’t control the tears as six weeks of emotions were released.

The Flinders Medical Centre Neonatal Unit cares for nearly 1,300 premature and critically ill babies from across Adelaide, country South Australia, the Northern Territory, Mildura and Broken Hill. Having experienced the heart wrenching process of what premature babies endure to have their little eyes examined, he was a ‘daddy’ on a mission to make a difference.

Rob quickly learnt about a ‘Retcam’ which was at the top of the FMC wish list. This leading edge technology is a special digital camera that will help doctors detect the early signs of ROP and make the eye examination less invasive and non-stressful for babies and their families.

Rob launched the Daddy’s Little Legend Neonatal Appeal to raise funds on behalf of the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation to provide the neonatal unit with a Retcam which costs $177,000. Since his appeal started in November 2013, he has raised over $28,000 of the $100,000 raised so far by the FMC Foundation for the Retcam.

Rob is passionate about making a difference and will not stop his ‘daddy mission’ until the FMC is using the Retcam in their Neonatal Unit. Rob will never forget that profound moment when his emotions fell apart and the distress of watching his little girl endure the eye examination which premature babies face whilst in NICU. He wants to make the tests less invasive for each baby whilst helping to save the eyesight of the FMC Neonatal Unit’s little legends.

If you know a premmie hero who volunteers their time in the community, make sure that you nominate them today!

You can read further nominee profiles HERE.