COOS BAY — When expectant parents enter a hospital, they expect to leave with their new family member. But sadly for some, that's not the case.
To help those parents who lose a child, a “cuddle cot” was donated to Bay Area Hospital last week.
In 2017, the Warner Grange began raising money in an effort to place these temperature-controlled boxes in every hospital in the state. So far, the organization has placed cuddle cots in Portland hospitals, as well as in Astoria and Bend.
On Friday, Oct. 25, the Warner Grange was able to bring one to Bay Area Hospital and were met with somber but excited staff.
“Having a cuddle cot means parents can spend time with their baby,” said Robin Cherry, an OB tech with BAH. “We won’t have to deteriorate the baby’s body by warming and cooling the baby by taking it out of the fridge and warming it up before parents hold them. And this way, parents can spend more time, more of those few precious hours, with their baby.”
Cherry researched these boxes years ago and always proposed to add it to the hospital’s budget, but it never made it on. She is part of BAH’s Healing Hearts program, which helps parents after they lose a child, and sees this new box as a way of helping the healing process.
“In the Healing Hearts program, we put together special memory boxes for parents and local funeral homes are amazing with what they give our parents,” Cherry said. “A nurse follows up with the patient and family as needed in the first year. We also have a couple photographers who come in and do photos because it’s the only chance you get time with your baby.”
Cherry sees the cuddle cots as giving parents not only more time to hold their baby, but better quality photos for families.
“The cooling and heating back up can deteriorate the molding of the face,” she said. “We can’t hand a parent a super cold baby back. It’s a heartbreaking experience for parents and staff. Grandparents sometimes come in from another town and we want a compassionate way for the family to spend time with the baby.”
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Warner Grange volunteer and fundraiser coordinator Maryssa Petersen never experienced the loss of a child but has discovered through the efforts of placing cuddle cots that many people have. She has been approached by strangers who overhear her conversations and heard their personal stories.
“Even miscarriages,” she said. “I had a woman come up to me and say no one cares about her feelings because it was a miscarriage, but the fact is she was still a mom. It was still a loss.”
When the Warner Grange began raising money for the cots in 2017, around $22,000 was raised. Petersen plans on fundraising again next October to purchase more cots in order to place them not just in every hospital, but multiple cots in every hospital.
“I had some hospitals in Portland tell me they’ve had 60 infant deaths a year,” she said. “I want to be involved in this because I want to comfort people, help them feel better.”
As Petersen trained members of the BAH staff on how to use the cuddle cot, she showed a silver dedication plaque to a woman in the room who helped coordinate her efforts to the southern Oregon coast.
The plaque honored volunteer Suzanne Swan’s children, Chelene, Philip, and Adam Swan, who were stillborn.
“This plaque shows families that they aren’t alone in what they are going through,” Petersen said.
For Swan, she reached out to Petersen when she saw her efforts on Facebook last year and wanted a unit for BAH since it is the only birthing hospital in the region.
“When I lost my children, these units were not available for me in the '70s and early ‘80s,” Swan said. “We weren’t given time with our children. They were taken from us. So this is my new mission.”