Bereaved Families Donate CuddleCots to Denver Health in Honor of Stillborn Infants
November 28, 2022
Unique system helps parents deal with a most difficult loss
Two days before Helen and Mike Raleigh’s son, Lucas, was born, he was “fine” by all accounts and measures. But, on May 14, 2018, Helen experienced medical complications during her labor and delivery, and Lucas tragically passed away.
“Nothing can prepare you for this type of loss,” she said.
Although nothing can alleviate a parent’s grief or pain amid the devastation of losing their infant, the ability to see, hold, and spend time with their stillborn baby can provide comfort, said Denver Health Perinatal Loss Coordinator, Bereavement Counselor, and Labor and Delivery Associate Nurse Manager Jaime Morelli.
The Raleighs didn’t have that opportunity when Lucas was born. In fact, Helen was in a medically-induced coma and couldn’t see their son until 12 hours later.
Wanting to change that reality for other grieving families, and to honor and create a legacy for Lucas’s life, Helen and Mike partnered with Walk With Me—a Denver nonprofit “devoted to giving practical, financial and emotional support to families who are learning to live in the wake of their child’s death prior to or shortly after birth.”
For each of the past four years, the Raleighs have raised funds to purchase and donate a CuddleCot to a Colorado hospital in need of the device. In September 2022, the family donated the medical device to Denver Health.
A CuddleCot is a cooling cot that provides an ideal temperature to preserve a baby’s body, allowing families extra time to bond with their baby and cope with their loss.
“We wish no one had to use this, but we know bad things happen,” Helen Raleigh said. “We hope it can be helpful for other parents.”
Walk With Me helped the family order the CuddleCot, which is manufactured and imported from the U.K., and identified Denver Health as a local hospital in need of the device.
In August, the organization also connected Janelle Blouin to Denver Health when she wanted to donate a CuddleCot in memory of her daughter, Brielle. Janelle was inspired to donate after she had the opportunity to use a CuddleCot when Brielle was born. She noticed that a plaque on the CuddleCot identified the donor as another mother who also had lost her baby, and she wanted to pay it forward.
“I know what Denver Health represents and the community it serves,” Blouin said. “When you’re going through the worst thing that you could ever go through, it just is a small yet huge piece that makes it that much more bearable. Just that gift of time.”
Thanks to the generosity of Blouin and the Raleigh family, Denver Health now has two CuddleCots available for use by bereaved families, giving them the gift of time to form memories with their infants.
Denver Health delivers one-third of all babies born in Denver—about 3,500 each year. According to the March of Dimes, stillbirth affects around 1 in 160 pregnancies each year in the U.S.
Morelli, who has worked as the perinatal loss coordinator at Denver Health for 16 years, said the hospital has seen an increase in stillbirths due to COVID-19. She also said certain medical conditions and complications can be a cause, while other times, infants are lost before, during or shortly after delivery for unknown reasons. She runs a monthly support group at Denver Health for parents who have experienced perinatal loss.
“That pain won’t go away,” she said, “but how do you support those families? They will appreciate that time spent bonding with their babies more as time goes on.”