The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 19, 2013

Onesie project helps connect parents at Janet Weis Children's Hospital NICU

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

DANVILLE — Parents of pre-term babies were invited to decorate “onesie” bodysuits for their infants at a Janet Weis Children’s Hospital event meant to let them connect with other adults with children in the hospital.

The onesie decorating, held at the children’s hospital on Thursday, is a regular monthly event and part of a series of family support activities to allow parents with children treated in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, to meet one another.

The family events are arranged by Phoebe Beckley, the NICU family support specialist for the children’s hospital. Her position is jointly funded by Geisinger Medical Center, where the children’s hospital is located, and the March of Dimes.

“The mission of the March of Dimes is to have healthy babies and healthy pregnancies,” Beckley said. Offering ways for parents of pre-term babies to meet and share their experiences is one way to help them, she said. There’s a unique kind of stress associated with having a newborn have an extended stay in the hospital, and activities like the onesie decoration allow them to relieve that while making something for their baby, Beckley said.

“It’s helpful to be able to talk and see how other parents cope with it,” said Telisha Walters, of Beaver Springs, hard at work stenciling a monkey onto a onesie for her daughter, Jayanna, born April 5.

Jayanna has been doing well since being admitted to the NICU, Walters said. “Hopefully she’s going to come home soon,” she said.

The average stay of a baby in the NICU is 19 days, though some can stay for between three and six months, Beckley said.

Dorothy and Angel Jovel-Martinez, of Shamokin, were visiting their daughter, Evangelina, just born on Tuesday. Evangelina was born at 28 weeks and five days. While she is breathing pretty well on her own, Dorothy said she will have to remain in the NICU until early June. “I’m going to be here every single day, that’s the goal,” she said.

Due to the extent of her daughter’s stay, Dorothy and Angel are likely to return for other family events later on, Dorothy said.

At the onesie decoration, Dorothy was using markers and stencil to decorate a ladybug onto Evangelina’s onesie, to match the theme of her nursery.

“Everyone gets pretty creative when they have all the materials in front of them,” Beckley said.

The two most popular activities run by Beckley are the onesie decorating and scrapbooking. Family portraits, performed by Bloomsburg professional photographer Brett Simpson, are also taken about every three weeks. Other events include knitting and a monthly pizza party with a social worker.

Beckley is the only NICU family support specialist currently in Pennsylvania. The family support system she helped start at Geisinger’s Wyoming Valley campus is the first system-wide support system in the state.

“We’re the first one who will have it in all their NICUs,” said Dr. James Cook, director of neonatology for Geisinger Health System. Cook stopped at the onesie decoration for a program called “What’s Up Doc?,” which gives parents the chance to ask questions about the NICU to Geisinger doctors. The support system really helps send feedback to the rest of Geisinger, Cook said.

Email questions or comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.