NICU babies benefit from new cuddler program

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JOPLIN, Mo. (KSN) — Some of Freeman’s youngest patients are getting some extra T.L.C. thanks to a new program.

And now the hospital is looking for more help with those preemies.

Retired teacher Sarah Wall has developed a kind of weekend tradition.

Sarah Wall, Freeman Cuddler Volunteer, said, “I usually come in on Sunday evenings, it’s a great way to start my week.”

She’s helping to start the Freeman Cuddler program.

The work isn’t hard – just rock, read, or talk to the NICU babies.

“The social interaction with babies is just so beneficial. That’s why I do it, I just feel like it gives them a better start.”

Something Dr. Rahul Oberio couldn’t agree with more.

Dr. Ruhal Oberoi, Freeman Neonatologist, said, “Holding them, interacting with babies – we know that in the short term helps babies adjust and adapt to being outside the womb, especially for premature babies.”

The concept came from program coordinator Karen Graham.

Two of her grandchildren spent time in the NICU, sparking the idea.

But it took off when she found the tiny patient next door had gone weeks without outside contact.

Karen Graham, Cuddler Prog. Coordinator, said, “58 days no visitor… it broke my heart.”

She kicked off the Cuddler Program for Freeman a couple of months ago – and now it’s ready to grow.

Volunteers must pass a laundry list of interviews, health screenings and background checks.

But the end goal is to make sure NICU babies are surviving and thriving.

Paula Baker, Freeman President, said, “The attention babies receive, the love, the comfort, the reassurance is very important as they grow and develop.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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