September is Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month, designed to honor families who have experienced or are currently experiencing a NICU stay, as well as the healthcare professionals who care for them. Valley Medical Center has the only level III NICU between Seattle and Tacoma, caring for newborns whose needs require more advanced care.
In honor of this month, learn more about how local people and organizations support Valley’s NICU year-round, and how you can support our littlest patients.
Books for Babies
Before birth, the mother’s voice is the most important sound for infants to listen to while their hearing develops. When infants are born too soon and need to stay in the hospital NICU, the sounds they hear are not what they’re used to. Instead of human voices and the noises of daily life, they hear monitors and other equipment. This change in what they hear can slow down infants’ language development later in life.
Hearing human voices early on is needed for normal speech and language development, so reading to babies in the NICU (and beyond!) is highly encouraged. At Valley, all NICU families are given a children’s book to read while in the NICU and to take home after the baby is discharged from the hospital.
If you would like to support Valley babies, please consider making a contribution through our Facebook fundraiser, or through our online donation page valleymed.org/gift and select “Children’s Services.” Your gift will support the books for babies program, as well as other items and programs for young patients at Valley.
Finding a New Hobby: A Way to Give Back
Mike Sotzing, a U.S. Navy Veteran and former Valley volunteer, taught himself to crochet so he could donate hats to premature babies in need. After a difficult battle with cancer left him mostly wheelchair bound, Mike’s wife informed him that he needed a hobby. Though no one in his life had dealt with a baby in the NICU, and despite not knowing how to crochet, his decision to take on this challenge came without hesitation. Mike says, “I drove to Hobby Lobby and bought a crochet kit, then I came home and Googled a video on how to do it. I watched it about 10-12 times and my wife helped me figure out the more complicated steps.” At the time of the interview, Mike had only been crocheting for three and a half weeks and he’d already completed 80 hats! He described the activity as addictive and plans to continue donating his creations to local hospitals, NICUs, and babies in need.
Providing Thousands of Cozy Quilts to Preemies Throughout the Puget Sound
Since 1986, Quilters Anonymous, a local quilting guild, has gifted more than 23,000 handcrafted preemie-sized quilts to area NICUs, including Valley Medical Center.
Preemie quilts generally take a couple of hours to make. Guild members can either use premade kits with fabric purchased by or donated to the guild. Karen Phillips joined the guild in 2016, putting her years of experience as a quilter, sewer and home economics teacher to good use. “I was given a kit and got hooked. (The quilts) are so much fun to create,” she says. “We’ve gotten some really nice thank you letters from people who have received the quilts—one was from a 19-year-old woman who still had her blanket.”
In addition to preemie quilts, Quilters Anonymous makes items including catheter bag covers, quilts for nursing home residents, and pillowcases for Fisher House, which provides housing for families of loved ones who are patients at Veterans Health Administration hospitals.