Volunteers offer loving arms to babies battling addiction

7:16 PM, Aug 1, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- The NICU at MetroHealth Medical Center is where babies born too early, or born with health problems come for help. And in today's society, where prescription drug addiction is soaring, it's also where newborn babies come to detox.

"We've seen a lot more babies lately that are coming in and being born to moms who are addicted," according to NICU Nurse Tracey Galvin.

Whether born dependent on painkillers, heroin, or methadone, withdrawal can be difficult and painful.

"A baby who is going through withdrawal really requires a lot more attention than a normal newborn, they are very hard to console," Galvin adds.

Related story: Tiniest victims of Ohio's painkiller epidemic 

NICU nurses spend as much time as they can rocking, swaying and comforting these babies. But other patients need their attention too. And that's when volunteers with loving arms come in. "I like the word cuddler," says Elyn Medas. The 20-year-old is a volunteer with MetroHealth's Infant Comforter Program. She's no stranger to the NICU. Born at just 29 weeks.

Elyn spent the first few months of her life on the MetroHealth unit. Though she wouldn't remember her time here, she's always felt drawn to the place that gave her a chance at life.

"It's really nice to come back to this NICU because the team and staff obviously gave so much to me," Elyn explains.

One of the youngest program volunteers, Elyn knows that whether she's able to help soothe a baby or not, she's helping.

"You find a position that they like and you hold them there. You don't care if your arm falls asleep," Elyn says, with a smile.

Nurses, like Tracey Galvin, say the time volunteers give is invaluable. "They seem to have that special patience these babies need," Galvin said.

Busy with a full time summer job as camp counselor and heading back to college soon, Elyn still makes time -- several days a week -- opening up her arms and heart to a baby in need.

"I love the babies and I want them to be happy. I always leave with a smile on my face," she says.

Most of the Infant Comfort Volunteers are older. They are grandparents who are experienced in comforting the inconsolable. Elyn is the youngest, but says because of her own experience in the NICU she is drawn to these babies.

Currently, MetroHealth is not in need of new volunteers for this particular program. But there are many other volunteer programs.

And you can help out the NICU in another way. They are in need of infant supplies to help care for these babies: swings, bouncy seats, and CD players to play soothing music.

All donations must be brand new and come in their original packaging. Monetary donations are also accepted and greatly appreciated.

Channel 3 has donated money to the Infant Comforter Program to be used toward the purchase of these items.

If you would like to make a donation as well, you can do so by clicking here - and choose Infant Comforter Program in the drop down tab that says "designation."


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