FT. WORTH, TEXAS – Inside the neonatal intensive care unit at Medical City Alliance, 23-day old Oliver Chacon snuggles with an eight-armed colorful octopus as part of his treatment. The hospital is partnering with Octopus for a Preemie – U.S., an organization that provides prematurely born NICU patients with a hand-crocheted octopus, which neonatologists say is a form of therapy.
“It’s hard to go home and feel happy about being home with your family when you feel like part of it is missing because you are leaving your baby at the hospital,” says Andrea Chacon, mother of Oliver born eight weeks early at Medical City Alliance. “Even before we had Oliver, I remembered reading online about this program and how these octopi provide comfort to NICU babies. For my family, anything that can help ease the pain of this situation is comforting.”
The carefully crafted cuddly octopi are made specifically to help NICU babies heal faster, allowing babies to go home to their families sooner.
“The time spent in the NICU is a very critical time for these babies,” says Keri Spillman, NICU nurse and Project Coordinator for the Octopus for a Preemie program at Medical City Alliance. “Anything we can do to minimize stress and enhance the healing environment here in the NICU is a benefit to our patients and families. When I learned of this program, I just knew we needed to implement it here at Medical City Alliance.”
The idea originated in Denmark, where doctors observed that the cuddly stuffed octopi calmed patients. The soft tentacles may remind babies of the umbilical cord in their mother’s womb. Researchers found that babies experienced higher levels of oxygen in their blood and more regular heartbeats. In addition, babies with these cuddly octopi were less likely to pull on the monitors and tubes providing 24/7 monitoring, assisting in breathing and the administration of critical medications.
“Providing a quiet and stress-free environment for babies in the NICU is absolutely critical to their recovery,” says Denise Zimmerman, NICU Manager at Medical City Alliance. “Every NICU around the world understands this, but when we were first introduced to this program, we thought this might be something to give these little babies one more advantage in the healing process.”
Volunteers spend hours crocheting the cuddly toys, adhering to specific instructions that detail the type of materials used, the size of the stiches and many other factors that consider the safety of the baby. The cuddly toy goes home with the NICU baby as a keepsake and memory of their time spent in the NICU.
About Medical City Alliance
Medical City Alliance is a full-service, 55-bed, acute care facility serving the communities of Fort Worth, Keller, Roanoke, Haslet, Saginaw and surrounding communities in northern Tarrant county and southern Denton county. The hospital offers a variety of services, specializing in women’s, cardiology, robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery, and emergency care. Medical City Alliance is a “green” facility, silver LEED certified for environmental and energy efficiency.
Medical City Alliance is part of Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).