Pat and Claire have been coming to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital for 16 years to volunteer for one very special role: volunteer cuddler.
Babies born premature or with complications require round-the-clock care. Machines are constantly buzzing, beeping, and whirring, telling doctors and nurses in real time exactly how their tiny bodies are faring in this strange new world…but one thing the machines can’t do is offer that special bit of human contact that often makes all of the difference.
Cuddling, the nurses say, has an immediate effect on the infants and are able to physically measure the difference. Blood oxygen levels begin to rise almost at once as the infants relax and start to breathe deeper once they are being held in a loving embrace. Doctors report that cuddled infants are able to tolerate a higher level of pain, have a more stable body temperature, and have stronger vital signs overall.
A hug can actually save a life, when the stakes are this high.
Claire cuddles a premature twin, born three months too early, and knows that she is spending her time in the best way possible. The parents are exhausted and scared, and knowing that someone else will be there to hug their babies gives them a peace of mind.
The couple also shares the heartbreak of showing up for their routine cuddle times…only to find an empty cot. They feel the loss of the infants just as strongly as anyone else, but are grateful that they were able to make a difference, even tough it may have been short-lived.
Do your local hospitals have a program like this?
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