Parents of newborn babies needing special care at Whangārei Hospital will sleep easier thanks to a gift from the Mangakahia Lions Club.

In the time-honoured Lions' spirit of pay-it-forward, the club has kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations by donating funds to purchase lifesaving equipment for the hospital's special care baby unit (SCBU).

The funds have bought a new sleep apnoea monitor to use on premature babies. The monitors check the respiratory rate of infants - and if they stop breathing for more than 20 seconds an alarm will sound.

Little Jay Junior (JJ) Thompson, born at Auckland City Hospital in March after just 27 weeks' gestation, has been using the new monitor since it arrived.

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JJ headed home yesterday today for the first time since he was born.

Weighing only 805g at birth, he spent his first two months in the newborn intensive care unit in Auckland before being transferred to Whangārei's SCBU where he has been for the past four months.

Now that he's a healthy 4kg, parents John and Tania Thompson get to take him home with the aid of oxygen and a sleep monitor.

JJ's mum said it means a lot to have the equipment donated by Mangakahia Lions Club.

SCBU associate clinical nurse manager Merophy Brown said having an extra sleep apnoea monitor in the unit means one can be freed up for the children's ward and be lent to parents who need to monitor their babies after they leave the hospital.

The Lions raised the $1880 required for the equipment by cutting and selling more than 100 cubic metres of firewood and holding several golf tournaments. President Ray Webb said that because nearly all the club members have children and grandchildren, they understand how valuable equipment like this is for the community.

The anniversary isn't until October but Webb said the club has several other projects planned to commemorate it.

Money donated to Northland hospitals is distributed through the Health Fund Plus set up by the Northland District Health Board and the Northland Community Foundation to provide a way for people to give donations or endowments. Health Fund Plus enables the DHB to buy equipment and services that Government funding doesn't cover.

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