Medical device offers bereaved parents comfort

Watch above: A new device at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women is giving families grieving the loss of a child more time to say goodbye. Laurel Gregory has more on Canada’s first CuddleCot.

EDMONTON – Losing a baby is an incredibly difficult experience for parents, but a Fort McMurray couple who recently lost triplets says a new device at Edmonton’s Lois Hole Hospital for Women offered them a great deal of comfort during their time of grief.

In May, Sherri and Mark Wareham were at the hospital for a routine appointment when their doctor told them Sherri’s cervix had started to dilate and she would deliver her babies within a few days.

“Initially I thought, ‘this is really not going to happen and doctors can be wrong sometimes.’ We were admitted to the hospital and I was placed on strict bed rest,” Sherri recalled. “But then my water just broke.”

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Sherri delivered her daughters four months early, at 22 weeks.

“It was definitely a rough road,” said Mark. “I couldn’t really do anything to help her; just in the background watching everything going on and it was a rough few days, that’s for sure.”

Each girl weighed no more than one pound and lived for about one hour.

After the girls passed, Sherri and Mark were offered a CuddleCot. The system uses a cooling pad to keep the baby cold, giving grieving parents more time with their children.

“For us it felt more of a comfort and it was more closure,” Sherri explained. “During that time we were able to kind of get to know our babies and I wanted to kind of be intimate with them and cuddle them and talk to them and just kind of get to know every inch.

“Otherwise we would have said our goodbyes that night once we delivered and that would have been it.”

“If I never said goodbye to my girls I don’t know where I would really be,” Mark added.

As a hospital for high-risk labour and deliveries, the Lois Hole uses the CuddleCot about two or three times per week. Patti Walker, the regional bereavement coordinator at the Lois Hole Hospital, says the device can give parents days longer with their child.

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“You can’t change the fact that pregnancies end or that babies die, but we can definitely make a difference in what that experience can be for that family. We give families options, we don’t tell them what to do or how to grieve, but we give them lots of options.”

The CuddleCot at Lois Hole Hospital is the first one to be used in Canada. The $3,800 device was made available thanks to the donations of those in the community.

“We knew that this must be something that’s really going to make a difference to those families who are steeped in deep and abiding sorrow at a very difficult time,” said Sharlene Rutherford with the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.

Sherri and Mark say they were grateful for the three extra days they had with their girls, as it gave them time to get a bit of closure.

“They were our babies and if that was the only time we were going to have with them I wanted to kind of embrace the moment,” Sherri said. “It’s definitely closure. It’s definitely more comforting. I can’t imagine not wanting to get to know your children or not wanting to cuddle.”

And while it was a difficult time, Sherri and Mark say they will keep trying to have a child, adding their girls have given them a lot of hope.

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“I hope that just one day I’m going to be able to tell the next baby – boy or girl – that they had three strong sisters and definitely a strong mother,” said Mark.

“They’re our inspiration now and they’ve answered some medical questions. We definitely want to let their memory live on in our next child,” added Sherri.

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women has already ordered a second CuddleCot.

With files from Laurel Gregory, Global News.

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