Turning personal tragedy into comfort for others

Turning personal tragedy into comfort for others

When Advocate Nurse Ellen Wylie suffered the miscarriage of their fourth child more than 20 years ago, it was a loss made even more poignant by the fact that Ellen was an obstetrics nurse.

In her career, she had celebrated the healthy births with happy families and comforted those whose pregnancy had ended tragically. Now she was facing this kind of tragedy herself.

“When this strikes, your world is rocked,” Ellen says. “It’s something you never want to go through.”

Ellen, her husband Mark and their three children (two more would come later) got through their pain with the help of their faith, friends and family.

But they’ve never forgotten Luke, the child they lost.

In addition to a memory garden, Christmas tree angels in his memory and an annual balloon release on his birthday, Ellen channeled some of her grief into helping others who have faced similar circumstances.

Not long after losing Luke, she started a grief support group at the hospital where she continues to work, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., for those who have suffered pregnancy and newborn loss. Many years later, the support group still meets monthly, and Ellen, who now works as a lactation consultant at the hospital, also became a Certified Grief Counselor.

“My goal is to help couples get through the grief,” Ellen says.

Last year, the Wylies took another step towards helping bereaved parents. They had learned of the CuddleCot™, an innovative piece of equipment popular in the United Kingdom but relatively new to the U.S.

The CuddleCot is a small mattress in which cool water is circulated via a hose connected to an external cooling unit. The mattress can be covered with an insulated sheet and placed in a bassinet.  It can then be used to keep the body of an infant lost through miscarriage or stillbirth cool, giving parents more time to hold and bond with the baby before they must part.

“It’s important for parents to spend time with their child before saying goodbye,” says Stephanie Wollenberg, obstetrics nurse manager at BroMenn Medical Center.

Ellen agrees that a CuddleCot would have been welcome when they lost Luke.

“We did hold him,” she says, “But it would have been helpful if he had been able to stay in the room longer.”

In order to spare others some of the heartache they had experienced, Mark suggested to Ellen that they donate $3,000 to the Advocate Charitable Foundation and earmark the dollars for the placement of a CuddleCot on Advocate BroMenn Medical Center’s Mother Baby Unit.

The CuddleCot has been on the unit for a year now, helping many parents deal with their loss, thanks to the generosity of a couple who has been in their shoes.

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About the Author

Eric Alvin
Eric Alvin

Eric Alvin, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. He has more than 20 years of experience in both internal and external health care communications, media relations, and creating online and print marketing content. He has a great love of classic cinema and is a big fan of Turner Classic Movies.