Finding strength through challenges
28 September 2020 at 8:08 am
Every year in Australia around 48,000 newborns require the help of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. As the CEO of the Miracle Babies Foundation, Kylie Pussell is using her personal experience to support parents and their premature and sick babies across the country. She’s this week’s Changemaker.
In 2005, Pussell gave birth to twins at just 25 weeks. While both were resuscitated at birth and cared for by the NICU, her son Marcus sadly passed away due to complications from his extreme prematurity.
After joining a support group at Liverpool Hospital and meeting the founder of Miracle Babies, Pussell realised that she could use her personal experience of miscarriage, neonatal bereavement and extreme prematurity to help support other families, and create positive change for premature babies.
As CEO of the internationally recognised organisation, which is celebrating its 15th birthday this year, Pussell has overseen the expansion of the foundation’s program NurtureTime, the introduction of Miracle Babies Foundation to hospitals nationally, and the development of national resources.
For her efforts, she was recently announced winner of the Western Sydney Community Woman Award.
In this week’s Changemaker, Pussell discusses the power in working for something you’re passionate about, embracing vulnerability to help others, and why it’s important to recognise personal boundaries in your job.
What drew you to the organisation in 2005?
I’m the mother of three surviving babies, but I’ve lost five babies because of miscarriages and premature illness. It was about 12 months before Miracle Babies started, and I’d given birth to twins at 25 weeks, and lost my son at two days of age. It was extremely difficult in the following few years. I had two little girls at home, and I needed to keep being the best mum, but I was finding it hard to hold everything together.
When Miracle Babies started, I didn’t share a lot of that very openly, because I was still dealing with a lot. But after a while we formed a really good support network and I did start to open up. I think that was probably quite a turning point for me in that I realised I could use my experiences to help and support others and to let them know that you can find a way to be happy.
It’s a different kind of normal, but it was about giving myself permission to be happy again. That took a long time, because every time I found myself feeling good or laughing at something, there was just something there that would always trigger those emotions back. The pain doesn’t go away, but meeting nice people and finding the courage to talk and open up has really helped me help others.
How do you stay grounded and deal with challenging situations in your work, especially because you do have such a personal connection to the cause?
I think finding out what your own emotional points are and when you need to step back, when you need to take a break, when you need to chat to someone, is really important. I know that there are significant dates and times through my calendar year when I need to take some annual leave and spend some time to concentrate on me and my family. And I think that’s really important because we do invest so much in families, but there is also a time you need to look after yourself so that you can do your job. And as I said, I know those days for me, and everyone around me is very supportive of that, which is really good.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve received?
There are two that jump to mind. The first is around following your heart and your experiences. In the early days of Miracle Babies, our founder Mel, always told us to follow our gut, and I’ve held onto that since. And then another one that really has stood out is to make sure you surround yourself with the right people.
Did you think 10 years ago you would be where you are today?
Not at all. We all had little kids when Miracle Babies formed, and started out doing volunteer work till 2 am and then having meetings once a month. It wasn’t long before we realised how big Miracle Babies was getting and how important it was.
It’s been a pretty amazing whirlwind. With 2020 being our 15th year as an organisation, it’s been a really good time to look back and reflect on everything we’ve achieved. This amazing group of mums put their heart and soul into this organisation, and here it is 15 years later, globally recognised, and achieving so much. It’s quite overwhelming sometimes.
What do you like to do in your down time?
I don’t know if it counts as down time, but I’m president of our local netball club, and have served on the committee for about 10 years. So that keeps me busy. I’ve got two daughters and they both play, and my oldest daughter is now on the committee with me, so we’re known as a bit of netball family out where we live. I am trying to change that now because my son’s really getting into football, so I’m trying to find a balance between the two sports.
But I think I just really love being around people, and seeing them be successful and enjoying what they love to do.