Anne Corliss loves infants — a lot, that one way or the other, quietly and with out her noticing, she spent 25 years cradling them in her arms at a Bangor hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
She is taken into account a grasp cuddler.
Corliss, 66, is considered one of 18 volunteers concerned within the Carter’s Quiet Care Cuddlers program, which tends to the hospital’s tiniest sufferers when dad and mom aren’t round. She started volunteering at Northern Mild Japanese Maine Medical Heart’s pediatric unit in 1990 and moved to the NICU when the cuddlers program started in 1998.
Cuddling provides consolation throughout crying or different misery, offers stimulation and promotes weight achieve in infants, amongst different advantages, based on the hospital. Corliss, who has been across the longest of the cuddlers, considers it a privilege to carry a toddler.
“While you discover one thing that you just love, you don’t notice that 25 years have passed by,” she mentioned as she weaved via the halls of the hospital final week. “You don’t see it as a chore.”
Corliss, considered one of 4 nominees for the annual Larry Malone Luminary Award that honors a devoted volunteer, has given her time as a result of it helps the infants with their growth and likewise satisfies one thing in her. She is moved by the notion that one thing so easy — holding a child in her arms or towards her chest — can have such a profound impact, she mentioned.
The cuddlers program is EMMC’s hottest amongst volunteers and even has a ready record, although a spokesperson mentioned the hospital just isn’t actively searching for extra individuals. It has made such a distinction through the years that coordinators are growing a model for the PICU, or pediatric intensive care unit, that will profit kids 1 12 months outdated and beneath, mentioned Richard Larrabee, a licensed nursing assistant who has led this system since 2008.
Much like the skin-to-skin contact between a mom or father and their new child, which reduces stress and regulates their temperature, amongst different advantages, cuddling is about human contact and all its magic, Corliss mentioned.
Corliss, who has 9 nephews and 6 great-nieces and nephews however no kids of her personal, talks to the infants, asking how their day goes, or telling them about hers.
Cuddlers go away a observe for fogeys after their time with an toddler, telling how they behaved or reassuring them that the toddler was paid consideration to outdoors of feedings and diaper adjustments. In addition they learn and sing to them, and even put collectively a e book of lullabies for households to take residence.
“They hear your coronary heart beating. They’re heat as a result of they’re subsequent to you. And it doesn’t matter what you say while you discuss to them. It’s the sound of your voice that’s soothing,” she mentioned.
There are 29 rooms within the NICU, and a complete of 36 beds. EMMC has 110 lively volunteers and hopes to see a roster of 140 by the top of the 12 months.
Infants keep within the NICU for a wide range of causes. In some circumstances, they’re born prematurely and want particular care till their organ methods can work on their very own. Some expertise cardiac points, respiratory misery, glucose intolerance or delivery defects like gastroschisis, the place a gap within the child’s stomach wall beside the stomach button permits their intestines to increase outdoors the physique, Larrabee mentioned.
The pre-term delivery charge in Maine is 9.4 p.c, whereas the nationwide charge is 10.5 p.c, based on the 2022 March of Dimes Report Card for Maine, which additionally tracks charges by county. A delivery is taken into account pre-term when a child is born at or earlier than 37 weeks of gestation.
Relying on a child’s situation and wishes, nurses instruct cuddlers to carry them a specific means, Corliss mentioned. Generally they are often rocked to sleep, whereas different instances the cuddler ought to stay nonetheless as a result of they shouldn’t be overstimulated, she mentioned.
Corliss and different cuddlers undergo a rigorous course of involving screenings, an interview and coaching earlier than they’ll work within the NICU. They sometimes dedicate sooner or later every week to the NICU, spending 4 hours cuddling and generally stocking rooms, although Corliss has caught to two-hour shifts.
Although she finds pleasure within the work, it hasn’t all the time been simple. Corliss, who additionally works as a credentialing specialist within the hospital’s medical employees workplace, has held infants moments earlier than they have been transported by way of LifeFlight for surgical procedure and people not anticipated to outlive.
The primary time Corliss held an toddler experiencing drug withdrawal, she thought tremors have been an indication that the kid was chilly and wrapped them in a blanket. She later realized this was a symptom of neonatal abstinence syndrome, and infants uncovered to medicine within the womb can exhibit bother sleeping, seizures and different indications.
Individuals ask how Corliss is ready to maintain such fragile sufferers, particularly when wires and tubes join them to beeping screens.
But it surely doesn’t scare her as a result of she sees the incubators and different know-how as retaining monitor of the kid’s well being. She is “ceaselessly in awe” of the medical employees working within the NICU, and is aware of they’d reply instantly if one thing have been flawed, she mentioned.
In her years observing nurses, Corliss seen that altering a child’s bedding might be difficult, particularly whereas holding the kid. She has sewn a whole bunch of cotton flannel covers, which she calls “cozy child cuddler covers,” for bassinets and incubators to ease the method.
“That is simply one thing that I consider in,” she mentioned. “I may have a horrible day, after I’ve been up there for a number of hours, life is sweet.”