I didn't know anyone who had gone through a premature birth and NICU stay. My friends weren't sure how to help. I felt very alone and isolated. To know that others had goes through what my family was going through now was helpful. I felt less alone on this journey and it gave me hope.
~Nicole Bugna-Doyle, Graham's Foundation
I am excited to share my interview with Nicole from Graham's Foundation. The work they are doing is amazing and much needed! Make sure to connect and support on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.
Tell us your story and how you became involved with Graham's Foundation.
My micro boy twins were born at 24 weeks, 6 days. They were in the NICU for 170 days (Colin) and 174 days (Thomas). I had complications from the emergency C section and was in the hospital for a month after they were born. I saw them briefly the day after they were born and then when the doctors realized I was having problems, I could not see them again until I was released from the hospital. Both were on ventilators for 22 days. One had a stage 3 brain bleed on his left side which they monitored and eventually resolved on its own. Both had to have PDA Ligation surgery. Thomas has a paralyzed left vocal cord as a result- an unfortunate "side effect" of the surgery that can happen. He also had hernia surgery. Eventually they graduated from vent to cannula and from isolette to beds. A little after 5 months, they came home and we started a new journey.
About two months into our NICU stay, I was finally able to be in the NICU with my boys. I received a Care Package from Graham's Foundation that a friend had sent to me. It contained information about Graham's Foundation, a notebook, micro beanies for my boys, an insulated tote from Pampers, snacks and a Graham's Foundation bracelet. I was beyond touched by it. I didn't know anyone who had gone through a premature birth and NICU stay. My friends weren't sure how to help. I felt very alone and isolated. To know that others had goes through what my family was going through now was helpful. I felt less alone on this journey and it gave me hope. A few months after my boys were discharged from the NICU, I reached out to Graham's to thank them for the care package and to see how I could help. I became a NICU Ambassador at UCLA for Graham's Foundation. I would attend NICU Support meetings to talk with parents who were currently in the NICU, offer support and help find them resources. I helped organize Parents of Preemies Day at UCLA. Four years later, Graham's Foundation asked me to work for them as their social media manager.
What kind of impact do you hope that Graham's can have?
To help families with preemies in the NICU know that though their journey may be different, that they are not alone. They can get support, help and resources. That includes support, help and resources for those families who lose their preemie in the NICU.
What inspires you to keep helping families dealing with prematurity?
I do not want one preemie family to feel isolated and alone during their NICU stay and afterwards. For many, prematurity challenges do not end when your little ones are discharged. A support system with resources, compassion and understanding is needed for them. Graham's Foundation does the best it can to be there for every preemie family, but if we can't, we do everything to connect those to the right resources. I want to help ensure no preemie family feels alone in their journey.
How can someone help support Graham's Foundation?
They can donate, host a fundraiser on Facebook, Instagram or during one of our fundraising events. They can also help raise awareness about Graham's Foundation by following, liking and sharing our posts on videos on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). If you know the NICU social worker, cares, coordinator or charge nurse at your NICU, you can arrange to have Graham's information cards sent to them to give to preemie families. If you know a preemie family in the NICU, you can have a care package sent to them. And now through Bonfire.com, we are selling newly designed t-shirts! The proceeds from the sales go directly to creating and shipping care packages for families in the NICU. So many ways to support Graham's Foundation!
Graham's Foundation has recently improved the My Preemie app. It is a free app available on the App Store and Google Play in both English and Spanish. Also Graham's Foundation has an amazing Preemie Parent Mentor Program! The Mentor Program focuses on providing resources and peer support to parents throughout their child’s prematurity journey. Graham's has a team of trained parent (and grandparent) volunteers, each of whom has had their own experience with prematurity. Mentors can help parents from the early days in the NICU to the transition home, and also, if they experience a loss.
Connect with Graham's Foundation at www.grahamsfoundation.org