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Family care grants ease pain of infant deaths

CuddleCot one of 38 projects approved through annual program at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

THUNDER BAY -- Expectant parents don’t expect their baby to die.

But sadly, it does happen.

At Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, doctors have to deliver the tragic news between 10 and 15 times a year.

The grief is immediate, but often parents don’t have time to process it before the baby is taken to the morgue.

It’s heartbreaking, said Erica Moorhouse, the manager of labour and delivery and maternal newborns in the hospital’s maternity centre.

Acting on the advice of parents who had lost their son at birth, Moorhouse last year began investigating the possibility of purchasing a device called a CuddleCot, which cools the stillborn baby’s temperature to allow parents enough time to say a proper farewell to a child who will never be coming home.

It was one of 38 projects approved through the hospital's family care grant program.

Learning the approval was nearly unanimous and a CuddleCot will become a reality in Thunder Bay is heartwarming, Moorhouse said on Wednesday.

“We have nothing but care and compassion towards those who need it, and we give it freely,” she said. “To be able to provide equipment that provides such care, an outstretched arm, anything that will provide that comfort, it’s amazing.”

Without the family care grant, it’s like the hospital would never have been able to purchase the equipment, which doesn’t fall under traditional budget items.

Volunteer Association vice-president Cathy Britt said spending the $3,941 was one of the easiest decisions the grant committee has ever had to make.

“Whether you’re a parent or not, you can imagine how horrible it would be to lose a child. To be able to spend time with a child, knowing you can keep the child in the room with you for as long as you need to, that is such an important part of what this equipment will do,” Britt said.

“None of us had heard of it and everybody on the committee admitted as they read that application there were tears in their eyes.”

This year’s family care grants totaled $64,273, the money gathered through donations the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation and through profits at the hospital’s Seasons Gift Shop.

Other funded projects in 2017 included Staxi wheelchairs and two wheeled walkers for the emergency departments, a Hovermatt Transfer System, visitor’s chairs, walkers and a dozen transfer belts for the intensive care unit, bedside chairs for the surgical day care unit, a blanket warmer for the forensic unit and an exercise bike for the adult mental health department.