My Very Little Sister and the Very Big Story

A book for children with a sibling in hospital

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In June 2019, Alina's sister, Anela, arrived in the world 15 weeks early while we were on holiday. All of a sudden, we had an extremely premature baby in intensive care, a three-year-old wondering where her holiday had gone, and nowhere to stay. We spent five long months in Brighton and various London hospitals as Anela battled with many of the usual issues of prematurity, including chronic lung disease, metabolic bone disease and sepsis.

We were thrown headlong into the world of NICU (neonatal intensive care), a world of which we'd had no prior knowledge or experience. There were times that we started to lose hope and to think that Anela would never come home. And there were days that we were able to celebrate mini milestones. It was the toughest time of our lives, without a doubt.

We tried to shield 3-year-old Alina from the daily emotional rollercoaster we were experiencing, but she picked up on far more than we appreciated at the time. Even a year later she was still coming out with questions and remarks about the NICU journey that both surprised and worried us. She was still desperately angry, sad at times, confused and worried it would happen all over again.

So we encouraged her to talk to us about her thoughts and feelings. After a particularly tricky angry outburst, we asked her how she felt about using her experiences to make a book for other children with siblings in hospital. She jumped at the idea and spent three months dictating the wording and drawing pictures for what would soon become 'My Very Little Sister and the Very Big Story'.

Alina's book is now helping children across the UK to make sense of, and give voice to, the anger, grief, fear and pain they go through when a sibling is taken into hospital. We couldn't be more proud of Alina for the way she handled the most challenging year of her little life, and now she's turning a negative experience into an immensely positive outcome.

Huge thanks to the Early Birth Association (EBA) and to medical and nursing staff from Trevor Mann Baby Unit in Brighton for all their support with bringing the book to fruition.

We're providing two free copies of the book to each neonatal unit across the UK for them to keep on the ward and share with families. Please check the news page for up-to-date information about regions we've reached so far.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the book (all profit goes to the Early Birth Association), please head to our Bookshop.