"Mercy Preserves Precious Moments"
Tamee H., Health Unit Coordinator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mercy Children’s Hospital, is part of a team that spearheaded an effort to create memorial packages for parents who lose a baby. The NICU also offers this service to families of patients on other units as requested.
“We have a cart set up with materials, and when a baby passes away, we go to the patient’s bedside and make clay impressions of their hands and feet,” Tamee said. “We also offer photography and make personalized scrapbooks before they leave. We make a bracelet with the baby’s name on it, and we give that, along with pin with two little baby feet on it to the parents. We give them a Sierra Bear so no mom leaves with empty arms, and we give them a book that was donated by a mom who lost a child here. It is a book she read to her daughter during the time that she lived here.”
Tamee has been with the NICU for 18 years and has enjoyed seeing the program grow.
“We have looked into what other hospitals do and what families want,” she said. “You listen and watch the families to identify what they need, and then it turns into, ‘Wow, we could do that. We should do that.’ And we do.”
Paula Samples, RN, said Tamee’s efforts with this program are an excellent example of an employee embracing the Mercy Mission and going above and beyond in supporting the brand promise to provide the best, most personal care.
“She is taking care of the families’ spiritual and emotional needs,” Paula said. “It means the world to these families. For us working in the NICU, this is our job, it is what we do every day, but for these families, the loss of their baby is a really big deal. Our whole staff has really embraced this program and made it a part of our culture. They recognize that for a family whose child lived their entire life in the NICU, that scrapbook we provide is the only one they will ever have for that baby. And we don’t just do it for the NICU. We want all families to receive the same standard of care, so Tamee or another staff member will go to other units as needed.”
Gone But Not Forgotten
For example, Tamee recently assisted a family in the Emergency Room when an expectant mother suffered the loss of her baby at 23 weeks gestation. Tamee recognizes that the role she plays is “not for everyone,” but says she loves having the opportunity to help families in their time of grief.
“It is truly a gift, to be able to help families say goodbye and to give them something to fill their empty arms,” Tamee said. “I really appreciate that our entire unit is so supportive of this program and am especially grateful for my coworkers who cover for me when I am away at a patient’s bedside performing this service.”
The NICU continues to care for the families of the babies who have been lost long after they leave the hospital.
“We send them a card on the baby’s birthday and invite them to the memorial service that we partner with Labor and Delivery to hold once a year,” Paula said. “It means a lot to the families, who are often surprised and always touched to know someone thought of them and their baby.”
Tamee H., Health Unit Coordinator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mercy Children’s Hospital, recently helped the family of a pediatric patient at Mercy Children’s say goodbye and preserve precious mementos. (See related article about the service Tamee and her coworkers in the NICU provide on a regular basis to meet families’ spiritual and emotional needs in times of loss.)
“They had a 9-year-old boy who was dying,” Tamee said. “I put together a supply kit and went to his room. The parents were divorced, and the family was having a difficult time. Mom, at first, was very quiet and didn’t want any pictures, but Dad did. He also had two older sisters there and a younger sister. I introduced myself and let them know what I typically did for the NICU families but said I could do whatever they wanted. I gave his older sisters the bead bracelet kits and told them about our NICU Scrapbooking Program, which was actually meeting that afternoon. They helped me make the clay impressions, and Mom seemed to get more comfortable and joined in too.”
Tamee said she explained to the boy’s mother, as she tells many families, that she may not want to look at the pictures and mementos right away, but one day she would probably be glad she had them.
“She came and made a mold, and Dad did too,” Tamee said. “One of his sisters asked for extra clay to make one too, and then both older sisters went down to the NICU to make scrapbooks. Mom ended up wanting me to take pictures of the boy with his 18-month-old sister. I gave her the book we give to NICU moms. She ended up deciding to make a scrapbook too, and I think she was thankful that she was going to have something to remember him.
The patient passed away that day.
“This experience really touched me,” Tamee said. “When we do this in the NICU, we know the families because they have usually been with us for a while, but in this case, I had never met this family before, and yet, I felt like a part of their family that day.”
All Mercy Moments