On December 5, 2006, a precious baby girl named Rachel was seven weeks away from being born when her family was in a tragic car wreck. Her mother, Lori Beth Blaney, was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Unfortunately, Rachel was stillborn. From the lonely depths of grief the family experienced during that trial, Rachel’s Gift, Inc. was born. The Blaney family transformed this devastating experience into a much needed and appreciated service.
Rachel’s Gift, Inc. has partnered with Piedmont Henry to assist parents through the initial phase of infant loss with comfort from caring and knowledgeable volunteers. The volunteers provide grief assistance for the families, as well as training for nursing professionals and care givers to help patients through infant loss. They also provide a healthy environment, thus eliminating long term psychological damage to individuals and their families experiencing infant loss.
Lifetime keepsakes of their child are given to the families. These keepsakes will be a reminder and a physical connection to the child who was only in their arms for a short time. The keepsakes include: an angel bear, a book on grieving infant loss, a blanket and other items. Rachel’s Gift also provides gowns for the babies. These gowns are lovingly cut from wedding dresses donated to the organization and sewn by volunteers.
Tika Birdsong’s story is an example of endurance that was nurtured through Rachel’s Gift. Tika was filled with excitement and anticipation when she discovered she was pregnant with twins. However, at 24-weeks she went into active labor. She was admitted to Piedmont Henry Hospital and the staff quickly worked to try and stop the labor. At 26-weeks she gave birth to a 1 lb. 8 oz. baby boy, Jaxon and a 1 lb., 6oz. baby girl, Jayla. Jaxon had many complications and was not expected to survive. However, it was a shock when three-week-old Jayla passed away.
Immediately, Rachel’s Gift stepped in. Because of the excellent training Rachel’s Gift provided the nurses and staff at Piedmont, and the volunteers from Rachel’s Gift, Tika was able to learn to grieve in a healthy environment. “The primary goal of Rachel’s Gift is to give grieving mothers and parents a healthy environment, limiting the potential for long term psychological damage,” says Lori Beth Blaney.
Tika said, “The memorabilia and pictures are beautiful reminders of a baby I had for a short while, but is forever in my heart.” Rachel’s Gift continued to be there in many ways to meet her immediate needs. The founder, Lori Beth Blaney, even drove Tika to Children’s Hospital when Jaxon needed surgery. (Jaxon is now a healthy 5-year-old and ready to start school.) This is one more example of someone taking a horrible experience and making it into something beautiful.
Kara Loggins is another person that was blessed by Rachel’s Gift. In December 2010, after many miscarriages, Kara and her husband Anthony were very excited to find out they were pregnant. In March and April Kara was put on complete bed rest. On April 30, Kara was not feeling well and called Anthony to let him know there was something wrong. She was in so much pain. After Anthony arrived home he immediately called 911. Anthony delivered Cherity in the bathroom of their home, with help from the 911 operator. Anthony was holding Cherity as she took her first breath of life! The EMT’s took Cherity to Piedmont Henry Hospital and sent another EMT to pick up Kara. Cherity was 17 weeks early.
Kara was able to see Cherity for the first time in the NICU later that afternoon. Cherity was kicking and moving her arms around. The Loggins were told Cherity would have to stay in the NICU for a few month’s to gain weight because her birth weight was only 1lb. 9oz. The next day the doctor told the Loggins Cherity was having complications and wanted them to come to her bed side. Kara said, “That was the worst feeling ever seeing your child so helpless.” Kara got to hold Cherity for the first time at that point. Anthony was holding Cherity when she took her last breath. He held Cherity during her first breath and was holding her when she took her last breath. After a nurse dressed Cherity, she was brought to the Loggins room where they were able to spend a few more hours with her.
During this time Rachel’s Gift had been notified and they delivered the Loggins a gift box full of keepsake items that would be used to remember Cherity. They even helped Anthony capture Cherity’s footprints and handprints in plaster. The Rachel’s Gift volunteers took pictures of Kara and Anthony with Cherity. The Loggins still have all of Cherity’s keepsakes displayed in their living room. These are a constant reminder of the short time they had with their precious angel. Rachel’s Gift continued contact with the Loggins through monthly cards and calls.
In October 2013, the Loggins found out Kara was pregnant again. After reviewing Kara’s medical history with her doctor it was decided she should see a specialist every two weeks. She was monitored closely including progesterone shots to help strengthen her cervix. A healthy baby girl, Kirstynn was born at 37 weeks weighing 6 lb. 14 oz. She is now 13 months old and a bundle of joy.
The care shown by Rachel’s Gift volunteers to the Loggins did not stop after the loss of Cherity. They continued to inquire as to how Kara was doing during and after the birth of Kirstynn. Kara said, “I can honestly say Rachel’s Gift helped me a lot the first year after Cherity passed. It was nice to be able to talk to someone that knew how I was feeling.”
To learn more about Rachel’s Gift, visit the webpage at [Rachelsgift.org]. Rachel’s Gift Infant Bereavement Support Group is for parents, families and friends who have experienced a loss through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. This group meets on the second Thursday of each month in the Foundation Education Center at Piedmont Henry Hospital, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Call 770-320-7059 or visit [piedmont.org] for more information.
By Annette M. Higdon