Donation has extra meaning for parents of stillborn twins

Bay Roberts couple donates CuddleCot to hospital

Nicholas Mercer nmercer@cbncompass.ca
Published on November 22, 2015
Photos by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass
Nichole Tuttle (left) and Robert Callahan stand next to the CuddleCot that they donated to Carbonear General Hospital in memory of their sons on Nov. 12.

When dealing with the death of a child, all parents want is a little extra time.

Perhaps it’s to get to know them a little bit better or maybe just to give the child a proper goodbye.

Giving parents more time was what brought Nichole Tuttle and Robert Callahan to the fifth floor of Carbonear General Hospital last week. The couple donated a CuddleCot to the pediatrics unit of the hospital.

It is a tiny blue fan that cools the baby and gives families the extra time they need with a stillborn child. The donation closes a troubling year for the Bay Roberts pair. Nov. 12 is the one-year anniversary of the day Tuttle delivered stillborn twins at Carbonear General.

According to Eastern Health, there were 14 stillborn births at Carbonear General Hospital in the last five years.

“It meant a lot (to donate the device). For one, I work at this hospital and we wanted to give something back. I know all of the nurses and they were excellent with us,” said Nichole. “We stayed for nine hours after it happened and only left because we were exhausted.”

The CuddleCot cools the baby, giving families the time they need with the baby. In a warm room, a baby’s condition can deteriorate quickly, making the cooling of the child essential for parents who want some extra time with their offspring.

According to the company’s website, the device “is a tool encouraged by midwives, bereavement practitioners, still birth/neonatal charities and academics.”

 “They were held for pretty much nine hours and that sped up the process,” said Nichole. “By the time they left, they were pretty dark. Their appearance changed a lot from that morning.

“That’s my most common memory of them. When I think of them, I see the dark babies.”

The donation of the CuddleCot was made possible through family and friends of Tuttle and Callahan.

As bittersweet as this day was for the couple and their families, it can be viewed in a positive light.

“We read about (the CuddleCot) and how it keeps the babies’ appearance the same,” said Nichole. “I looked at Robert and said, ‘We have to donate one of those to Carbonear Hospital.’”

There was a cake cutting and the donation of a pair of memory boxes — one for a girl and one for a boy — for other parents who may go through the same scenario.

“We opened the boys’ boxes today and smell the blankets,” Nichole said, her voice wavering. There is warmth and love in her eyes as she discusses the boys. There is also the hint of sadness.

A pair of names were written on the cake last Thursday. When they were born, Tuttle and Callahan had yet to decide on names. They settle on Nicholas and Robert Junior. They’re extensions of their parents names.

Keeping busy

Tuttle and Callahan felt they needed to keep themselves busy the day before the donation. If they didn’t, they feared they’d have spent the day inside and crying.

Tuttle anticipated they’d probably still do that later in the evening, but for the most part there were activities planned to help ease the pain.

Aside from the hospital ceremony, they planned to release balloons with their families on what would be the boys’ birthdays. There was also a big family dinner planned.

“We’re trying very hard to keep busy,” she said.

The pair are expecting again and Nichole is due in seven weeks. The last year plays in the back of her head sometimes, but the couple are focusing on the positives as the date approaches.

“It offers a bit of closure (for us),” said Nichole. “I hope (the CuddleCot) is never, ever used, but I know it’ll bring comfort to those who do.”

nmercer@cbncompass.ca