Madelynn Rouh may have only lived for four days, but her legacy and memory will carry on for years to come.
Madelynn’s proud parents, Tina and Joseph Rouh, recently donated a Cuddle Cot to Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill in honor of their daughter. The Mantua couple wanted to thank the hospital for its care following Madelynn’s passing, as well as support other parents who may face the same loss.
“Our biggest thing is we don’t want to forget about her,” Tina said. “We can do that by raising funds, collecting money and buying things that will help other families.”
A Cuddle Cot is a cooling unit that affords parents extra time – even up to three days – to spend with their baby after his or her passing. The device keeps the baby preserved, giving an opportunity for family and friends to visit and additional time to grieve with the child.
“The Cuddle Cot is so important because it gives families more time with their babies,” explained Inspira nurse Jessie Pizarro, of Deptford. “It’s just so important. This is the only time they are going to have to make memories with their babies. These memories will carry them forward through their grief.”
Madelynn was born on Dec. 13 at Inspira, and she passed away on Dec. 17, the first night after returning home. The baby was brought to Inspira where she was pronounced dead. The Rouhs were able to stay with her for a few hours, have family visit, and – invaluable to the couple – have close friend and nurse Kim Karcher come down from the maternity ward to provide support.
“It meant a lot. You have very little control in that situation. The control is taken from you,” Tina, who is also a nurse, explained. “That Kim was able to come down, she did handprints and footprints, she cut some of (Madelynn’s) hair for me, she helped me hold her and wrap her … Emotionally, it was very important to have someone there with us that was so supportive and caring.”
While a Cuddle Cot would not have helped in Madelynn’s situation since she was not at the hospital at the time of her passing, the Rouhs learned of the device while attending grief groups and understood their importance. As their baby girl’s first birthday approached, they knew they wanted to do something in her honor and memory, and decided donating a Cuddle Cot to the hospital would be the perfect thing.
The Rouhs created a GoFundMe account, sharing with family and friends, and raised about $2,800 to purchase the unit. They were unable to present the gift in December, but made the donation just recently along with daughter Jenna Stowell, 19.
Pizarro, who is specially trained to assist parents with a baby loss, said she was surprised that, at a time when the Rouhs are grieving their own daughter, they stepped up to think about other families facing a similar loss.
“I was so humbled they wanted to donate it to our hospital,” she said. “It helps them keep their memory alive of their daughter.”
Dawn Goffredo, administrative director for Maternal Child Health at Inspira, was also amazed by the Rouhs’ selflessness, especially considering Tina is currently pregnant.
“I know how much she must be going through herself, and knowing that other people are having such a hard time … it is very humbling to be able to know she would be able to do that at this point,” the Williamstown resident said.
The Rouhs wanted to do a public donation to help grieving parents know someone out there understands what they’re going through.
“You feel very invisible. People don’t want to talk about babies that die,” Tina said.
In 1985, Tina had a sister who died of SIDS, but her family never talked about it. While there is still a stigma surrounding discussing a baby who has died, Tina does think things are improving, in part due to the help of social media and celebrities being open about their losses.
“I openly talk about my daughter. No one ever says don’t talk about her,” Tina said. “It’s definitely a different world than it was 36 years ago when my sister passed away.”
Goffredo said raising awareness that this does happen – that babies do die, but also that there is support and help for heartbroken parents – is critical. She said there is also value in ensuring other hospital staff are aware of devices like the Cuddle Cot, which could be used, for instance, if a baby dies in the emergency room.
Pizarro is glad the Rouhs’ donation is bringing light to the topic of baby loss. The more it’s discussed, the more families will feel comfortable openly talking about their baby.
“The families don’t forget,” Pizarro said. “They like to remember their baby.”
To learn more about infant loss support groups at Inspira, as well as resources such as a list of counselors and books, email Pizarro at firstname.lastname@example.org.