Time is something every grieving parent wishes they had more of when saying goodbye to their child. Katie and Phillip Hurlbut would have loved to have had more time with their daughter Ella Grace, who passed away seven weeks after birth due to complications from an infection in September 2015.
“We felt rushed after she passed away,” said Katie, who is a nurse practitioner at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Humble Fall Creek. “We had very little time for our family to come and say goodbye to her.”
To extend the narrow window of time families have with a lost loved one, the Hurlbuts recently donated two Caring Cradles in Ella’s memory – one to the Women’s Specialty Unit at the Pavilion for Women and the other to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands.
The cradles use a cooling blanket to cool the baby’s body, which prevents any distressing physical changes and lengthens the preservation of the child by 24 to 48 hours. The cradles can be positioned in a private setting so that families not only have more time with their baby but can say goodbye in a private, dignified way.
“After we lost Ella, feeling her body change was one of the most upsetting things for me. Those changes made me realize how quickly she was slipping away from me,” Katie said. “As a grieving mother, I struggled knowing I only had a short amount of time to create memories with her. It’s our prayer for these Caring Cradles to give the gift of time to grieving families.”
Jenni Fair, patient care manager in the NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital Medical Center campus, said the cradles are especially helpful to mothers who might have been ill during delivery and unable to spend time with their child immediately after birth.
“Some mothers are literally physically unable to mourn the death of their child for a day or so until they are doing better themselves,” Fair said. “The cradles are very helpful in these situations.”
The Hurlbut’s donation of the Caring Cradles came a little more than a year after the grand opening of the Butterfly Bereavement Room at the Pavilion for Women. Devoid of medical equipment, the Butterfly Room is a nicely decorated nursery where families can separate themselves from the hospital setting and mourn privately. When they leave the room, families can take a purple bag filled with things such as a bereavement gown for their baby, a blanket and a book.
The Butterfly Bereavement Room also was an initiative spearheaded by the Hurlbuts.
“Our goal is to bring peace and comfort to other families going through the same painful experience we did – losing a baby,” Katie said. “We’re very thankful for the opportunity to turn something so tragic into something good. Ella’s life will continue to impact grieving families in a positive way for many years to come.”