By Marissa Harshman
VANCOUVER, Wash. — Linda Nguyen had a lot of dark days in the weeks after the stillbirth of her son, Connor.
She didn’t leave her house for a month. She scoured the internet for information about stillbirths and pinched umbilical cords — the culprit in her son’s death. She felt alone.
“I was really depressed for that month,” Nguyen said.
But through her grief, the Vancouver woman found a purpose — a way to help other parents enduring the pain and loss she and her fiance, Sonny Mouy, felt. She found a way to turn her heartbreak into comfort for others and healing for herself, reported The Columbian.
Nguyen raised more than $2,000 to purchase a medical device that will allow parents to keep stillborn babies by their side in their hospital room for longer, giving them more time to mourn and say goodbye. The device, called the CuddleCot, arrived at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center’s Family Birth Center in December.
The act of generosity was spurred by Nguyen and Mouy’s own desire to have more time with Connor and to honor their son on the one-year anniversary of his death.
“I know it’s not a good thing to go through, but I hope it makes it so they can spend more time with family,” Nguyen said. “I wish we had more time with him.”
Nguyen was 33 weeks pregnant when doctors told her they couldn’t find her son’s heartbeat.
Days earlier, Nguyen and Mouy had celebrated their pending arrival with a big baby shower. The next day, Nguyen had her 33-week checkup. Her doctor told her everything looked and sounded good.
Soon Nguyen began to feel like something wasn’t right. Four days after the baby shower, Nguyen couldn’t remember feeling Connor move. He always kicked.
So the next morning, Nguyen went to the hospital to be checked. The ultrasound tech couldn’t find a heartbeat. Neither could the doctor.
Nguyen and Mouy returned to the hospital that night and Nguyen’s labor was induced. Nguyen delivered Connor at 2:35 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2015. He was 18 inches long and weighed 4 pounds, 11 ounces. Local photographer Amy Buma arrived soon after and took photos of Connor. Hospital staff took casts of his tiny hands and feet and his face.
Nguyen rested for a few hours, and then she and Mouy spent the rest of the day with their son. By the end of the day, the couple could see changes in Connor’s body and skin color.
After a stillbirth, hospital staff typically have to take the baby to a different area of the hospital to preserve it, said Meredith Pena, assistant nurse manager at the Family Birth Center. Families are given time to stay with their baby and say their goodbyes, but at some point, the baby’s body needs to be cooled.
The CuddleCot does that in the hospital room. The CuddleCot connects a cooling unit to a small pad that’s placed in a bassinet to cool the body. The device can also be used to warm the baby slightly before he or she is held.
“It’s better to be at mom and dad’s side to say goodbye,” Pena said. “It’s a much better place for baby.”
“It’s a wonderful gift,” she added.
But it’s a gift hospital staffers hope they won’t need to use often. Each year, about 2,000 babies are born at Legacy Salmon Creek. Statewide, fewer than six babies die or are stillborn per 1,000 births.
“The goal is that no parent needs to use it,” said Kelly Love, Legacy Salmon Creek spokeswoman, of the CuddleCot. “But if they do, it’s there.”
Nguyen learned about the CuddleCot while searching the internet for comfort through others’ stories about stillbirths. She spent hours researching the device, which is made in England, and decided to take on the task of buying the equipment for the hospital.
Nguyen started a GoFundMe page, but it stalled after collecting about $500. At a friend’s suggestion, Nguyen put together a basket with gift certificates for a massage, manicure, pedicure and Starbucks, as well as wine, a nice wallet and other goodies. Then, Nguyen started selling raffle tickets for $20. The effort raised more than $1,000.
In total, Nguyen raised about $2,200. The Salmon Creek Hospital Foundation contributed the remaining $500.
Nguyen and Mouy visited the hospital in December to see the CuddleCot for the first time. They set up photos of a swaddled Connor around the bassinet and placed stuffed animals on the bedside table. The midwife and nurses who delivered Connor, and a handful of other hospital staff, visited to thank the couple for their donation.
“It’s such a gift you’re giving to other moms and dads,” said Ami Davis, Family Birth Center manager.
For Nguyen and Mouy, the CuddleCot was a way to honor their son and give other parents something they wish they had with Connor: more time.
“We regretted not having more time,” Mouy said. “When you get back home, you don’t get another chance.”