They are small but they are fighters. Infants in the NICU at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital are using all their strength to overcome a variety of issues.
Some are preemies, others have congenital issues, and others were exposed to drugs in utero. But one thing they have in common, they all have a whole team rooting for them, including some very special volunteers.
Linda Schwartz is part of the hospital’s volunteer baby cuddling program.
She comes in once a week and does exactly what she loves to do. She cuddles babies.
Schwartz says, “It's just helping to give that baby a little more love and attention and warmth and hopefully that will help them to get them better faster.”
For Linda, being in this hospital hits close to home. Linda suffered from severe asthma as a child and was once a patient at the hospital.
“I think I was around 8, I came to what was then called the Happy Hills Convalescent home and spent the summer here," says Linda.
Giving back has been important to Linda. And she loves every minute she gets to spend with the babies.
"I think it was just once that we weren’t on the same page, but we worked it out together,” says Linda.
Chrissie Heimer is the Nurse Manager for the Neonatal Unit. She says cuddling can have a positive effect on a child.
“It can help with their respiratory rate, heart rate, it soothes them, keeps them calm, helps sleep better," says Linda.
Volunteer cuddlers not only offer help to nurses who are busy taking care of the infants medical needs, they also offer comfort to parents who can’t be by their child’s side 24/7.
“A lot of them are saving their time off for when the baby gets home, they want to be able to be there,” says Heimer.
Since the baby cuddling program restarted over the summer, hundreds have shown interest in the program with about 400 calls so far.
Heimer says, “Each day I get between 5 and 6 calls."
And Linda understands the draw. While she loves coming in, sometimes it can be bittersweet.
“I check when I come in sometimes to and see if their still here and I’m glad when they’re not still here. I know they’re better,” says Linda.
To learn more about the cuddling program and other volunteer opportunities click here.