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Regional West Birth and Infant Care Center Receives Donation to Help Grieving Parents

Regional West Birth and Infant Care Center Receives Donation to Help Grieving Parents
Representatives of Connected Forever and Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel present a CuddleCot™ to staff of the Regional West Birth and Infant Care Center. From left: Julie Meier, RN; Catharine Houstoun, RN; Sara Kraft-Leavitt, RN; Jesse Pella holding Frannie Pella; Tracy Pella holding Maybry Pella; Cooper Pella; Erika Carmody, MSN, RN; Melissa Schaub, MSN, RN; Kayla Sorell, BSW; Tammy Lutz, Mary Beth Mau.

There is no cure for the unspeakable pain of the death of an infant, but a new device called a CuddleCot donated to Regional West’s Birth and Infant Care Center by Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel may help bereaved parents as they prepare to part with their child.

The CuddleCot is a small cooling device that can be placed in a bassinet or crib to help preserve a baby’s body; allowing the parents more time to grieve in the privacy of their hospital room. Without a cooling process, a baby’s body quickly deteriorates after death.

Having provided services for a number of families that lost babies in recent months, the staff of Dugan-Kramer was looking for a way to do more.

“We saw a need to help parents through the grieving process, so we began researching ways to help bereaved families,” said Tammy Lutz, Managing Funeral Director at Dugan-Kramer Funeral Home in Scottsbluff.

An article on the Nebraska Funeral Directors Association website led Lutz and funeral director Mary Beth Mau to information about a Nebraska-based nonprofit organization called Connected Forever, which was established three years ago in Tecumseh, Neb. With the assistance of Connected Forever, Dugan-Kramer Funeral Home was able to purchase a CuddleCot for the Birth and Infant Care Center.

“The CuddleCot gives the gift of time to parents and families,” said Tracy Pella, president of Connected Forever, and mother of a premature baby who died at birth.

She traveled to Scottsbluff from eastern Nebraska with her husband Jesse, and three young children to present the CuddleCot to the nursing staff at Regional West. It was the fifth CuddleCot donated to a Nebraska hospital through Connected Forever.

Pella, a school psychologist and licensed mental health therapist at Bennett-Paylmyra Schools in eastern Nebraska, and her husband, a farmer, founded the organization after the birth of their twin sons. Cooper and Cohen were born at 23 weeks, 4 days gestation on June 1, 2011. Cohen died the same day, but Cooper, weighing only 14.8 ounces, spent 134 days in the NICU and is now an active 6 year old. The Pellas said they started the organization “so that no family has to endure a similar journey alone.”

Connected Forever supports families who have experienced premature birth or infant death by providing resources, education, and emotional support. Managed by a small board of professionals who are family friends, the organization has grown tremendously in three yearsthrough the dedication of volunteers and donors. It now provides bereavement support and NICU support for families of any baby born in Nebraska. Programs include funeral burial assistance, financial assistance for NICU expenses, peer mentor support, CuddleCot donations, online support, special events, and community outreach.

The donation of the CuddleCot was welcomed by the staff of the Birth and Infant Care Center which grieves with bereaved parents for the babies they did their best to nurture. It is an important addition to the personal mementos the nursing staff provide as a remembrance − the baby’s footprints on a card, a lock of hair preserved in a memory box, and a keepsake cast of the baby’s hands and feet.

“This will make a tremendous difference by allowing parents a few more moments or hours with their baby. We’re very grateful to Dugan-Kramer for this donation,” said Erika Carmody, MSN, RN, director of the Birth and Infant Care Center and Pediatrics at Regional West.

For more information about Connected Forever, visit

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