WEST KELOWNA – Kristin Esmail and her husband didn’t find out until she was in labour their son, Richard James, was stillborn.
After 39 weeks in utero, finding out that they would not be able to take him home was almost too much pain to bear.
“It was such a shock,” the West Kelowna resident says. “The nurses and staff at (Kelowna General Hospital) were very supportive and made sure I knew I had as much time as I needed so we took pictures while he was still pink and looking like a newborn. It was an experience that meant so much to me.”
Now Esmail is on a mission to bring a piece of equipment to Okanagan hospitals which could drastically extend the amount and quality of time parents can spend with their child.
Cuddle Cots are relatively new to North America. They have been used in Holland for 60 years and are in virtually every hospital in the U.K. but have only been in Canada for less than a year. They are essentially a crib that keeps the child's body cool, allowing parent’s time to grieve.
“Here in the Okanagan if your baby passes away before they are born they give you all the time you want with him,” she says. “But as you can imagine, if they’re not kept cool their bodies start to change quickly. It’s really hard on the parents to have to see their child go through those changes.”
Esmail says she would have given anything for more time with little R.J., whose ashes they now keep in a teddy bear.
“I would have loved to undress him and change his diaper and do all the things I was afraid to do because after the 24 hour mark passes they are very fragile.”
The units cost roughly $3,500 each and Esmail is trying to raise money for three of them, one each for the hospitals in Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon. She is also trying to make a difficult subject a little less taboo — something she says makes the ordeal even more difficult for parents.
“We as a culture definitely deal with the death of children much differently than overseas,” she says. “It’s uncomfortable for a lot of people to talk about so I’m hoping to open up the conversation and make it okay to talk about without people feeling awkward.”
Last Friday, May 29, she started a GoFundMe account in the hopes of raising $12,000 to cover the costs of three Cuddle Cots. Any money left over will be donated to the hospitals to help pay for care packages for parents going through the loss of a newborn.
“We need to have this here,” she says. “When it happens to you it’s such a blur and it’s such a shock. There are so many things I wish I could have done but I’m never going to see him again.”
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