Mater Brisbane volunteer Gwen Grant clocks up 15,000 hours with newborns

Mater Brisbane volunteer Gwen Grant clocks up 15,000 hours with newborns

Mater Brisbane volunteer Gwen Grant clocks up 15,000 hours with newborns

16 August, 2022

Gwen Grant is an expert cuddler.

She's spent each week of the past 25 years perfecting her hugs as a volunteer "cuddle mum" at Brisbane's Mater Hospital.

"They call it being a cuddle mum but it's not all you do so when you get a cuddle that day it's brilliant," Ms Grant said.

The generous Brisbane grandmother has recorded more than 15,000 hours in the hospital's special care unit helping parents take a break from caring for their little ones.

"It doesn't feel like 25 years at all," Ms Grant said.

"I first started by spending half my day in admissions then the second half in the special care unit."

She said allowing parents to have a short break from their room or head to an appointment was critically important.

She said they were often going through a traumatic time as their babies were in the special care unit for a reason.

"If you can listen to them and they can unwind to you as it's not with family, it's a relief for them," she said.

"It's giving the baby attention when the mum isn't there."

A special song or three

Ms Grant said her tricks of the trade included having some special songs in her repertoire.

"I sing to them with a usual nursery rhyme, then I watch them and see if they're awake and watching you to keep going," she said.

"A few weeks ago, I tried Rock a Bye Baby — it didn't seem to work so then I started Incy Wincy Spider and that was a winner as it had a different sound.

"I couldn't sing it all afternoon so then I sang The Wheels on the Bus as it's catchy and this little one liked the catchy ones."

While Ms Grant has held hundreds of babies during her volunteering, she said each moment was special and each day different.

"I go in with the attitude that it's quite a privilege to be in the special care unit as it's a very special area and I feel privileged being there doing my little bit," she said.

Husband and wife volunteers

Ms Grant's husband Errol also volunteers at the Mater and ferries her to her many shifts each week.

"He's a gem and he keeps coming back so he must love it [volunteering] as much as I do," Ms Grant said.

Mater volunteer senior manager Judy Johnson said volunteers such as Ms Grant brought their own life experiences and personalities to care for others within the hospital.

"Gwen is a compassionate and kind person," Ms Johnson said.

"We are so grateful for her time and empathy, and so are our littlest of patients."

More cuddles to give

Ms Grant hopes to keep volunteering for years to come if her health allows her.

She recently asked what the cut-off age was for volunteers at the Mater.

"I think it's 90 so I've got a little while to go and if I'm healthy and mobile I'll keep carrying on for as long as I possibly can," Ms Grant said.

"I get joy out of volunteering and you get to meet really lovely people on your travels – I absolutely love what I do.

"I'm just an ordinary little person that likes to go out and help."