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Sending Love and Hope

ICN baby PAH

After only seven weeks of being pregnant, Keri Heickert’s life as she knew it was no longer. Hers was a difficult pregnancy. In the fall of 2012 at only 20 weeks along, Keri – who was carrying fraternal twin girls – was admitted to monitored bed rest in Pennsylvania Hospital’s (PAH) Antepartum Unit where specialized care is provided for women experiencing complications of pregnancy.

Exactly two months later to the day, baby Brooklyn and Delaney were born. At three months premature, both had to stay in PAH’s Intensive Care Nursery for 65 days before they could be taken home. “Today, the girls are just amazing,” said Keri. “But back then through my pregnancy and their hospital stay, I just didn’t realize how overwhelming everything was and how much it was affecting me. It was so scary to feel the way I did.”

Then one day, after returning from a long and draining day at the hospital, there was a package on Keri’s front step. "I thought, ‘Really, someone sent a baby gift?’" A fellow preemie mom sent Keri a couple of teeny micro-onesies for the girls. “I was so moved by that gesture and by how much joy it brought that right there and then I promised myself I would pay it forward,” said Keri.

And pay it forward, she does. In January of 2014, Keri founded Sending Love and Hope. Through her organization she has been providing care packages to moms and their ICN babies at PAH with her own funds and with the aid of generous private donations. A group of women volunteers knit sacks from donated yarn for Keri’s gift bundles. Preemies get cute onesies with “Made with Love, Sent with Hope” printed on them along with tiny hats imprinted with “Love and Hope.”  High-risk pregnancy moms on bed rest get knitted sacks with dry shampoo, face and body wipes, nail polish, a deck of cards and a blank journal.

Sending Love-n-Hope ICN PtsStaff

“I really want to bring awareness to a mother’s mental state during this distressing time,” said Keri who experienced anxiety attacks, obsessive-compulsive behavior and even postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder. “However, I also want moms to know that – as George Chakiris once said – even in the darkest moments, love and hope, are always possible.”

    Shown here are Keri and her daughters and staff of the ICN at Pennsylvania Hospital.

“Keri provides patients with something that money cannot buy and that is hope,” said Elizabeth Quigley, MSN, RNC-OB, manager, ICN Nursery. “It is hard to imagine how much stress our families are under when they have a critically-ill child. Through the generosity of Keri’s organization our families can get some much needed hope and joy. This goes a long way for our families and their babies.”

Earlier this year, both the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and PAH newborn intensive care staff received Penn Medicine CAREs grants to help fund and continue initiatives to address the specific needs of the families of ICN babies. Staff members of the PAH ICN established an education, Parent-to-Parent Mentoring Program and a Parent Advisory Council.

Staff from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s ICN created Coffee Hour, a parent-led peer support group developed from a core group of former ICN mothers who provided feedback about the type of support helpful during the ICN experience. The Coffee Hour volunteers are parents and ICN staff members who listen to the frustrations and concerns of current NICU families, direct parents to appropriate medical team members for answers, and provide information and resources to families.




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