What is Delivering Hope NOLA?
I am a fellow preemie mom of an NICU graduate who knows first hand all of the struggles and heartaches parents go through during their child’s NICU journey. Delivering Hope NOLA is a non-profit created by 7 NICU moms. A few years ago, a group of moms banded together and started delivering care packages to families staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to the hospital where our children were born. This year, we decided to turn our little “project” into an established non-profit with the hopes of reaching out to more families. Our goal this holiday season is to deliver 100 care packages. Our long-term goal is to provide every NICU family with a mini care package with contact information to a local preemie mom for every premature baby born. Our care packages include journals, pens, water bottles, children’s books, lotions, hand sanitizers, pre-packaged/factory sealed snacks, blankets, preemie outfits and hats, and gift cards for gas, coffee and food.
This foundation is near and dear to my heart because my son was born at 29 weeks gestation weighing only 1 pound 15 ounces. He stayed in the NICU for 78 days while he learned to maintain his temperature, breathe and eat on his own, and essentially to grow. I was unable to hear, see, or hold my baby when he was first born because he was taken to the resuscitation room. It was over 24 hours until I was able to see him and a week until the first time I could hold him.
I will never forget the first time the nurses placed him on my chest for “kangaroo care.” I couldn’t wait to get to the hospital in the hopes that he was having a good day, and I would be able to hold him, kiss him, and sing to my baby as he lay in my arms. He was this little tiny peanut connected to multiple wires, monitors and tubes. My husband and I would sit at his isolette for hours each and everyday watching our little man endure many obstacles. He managed to overcome pneumonia, countless needle sticks, and airway complications.
This was a helpless feeling that no parent should ever have to endure.
I’ll never forget the emptiness I felt each time I had to leave the hospital without my baby, but the most unbearable heartache was trying to explain to my daughter that she had a baby brother even though she was unable to hold, touch, or see him in person and the constant difficulty of choosing one child over another. During our NICU stay with Graham, another mom sent me a care package, it consisted of a thermal bag for my breast milk, granola bar, journal, pen and water bottle. I still have the thermal tote and cherish it dearly. The NICU is a lonely place filled with highs and lows, ups and downs. No one can ever prepare you for this type of experience, but having the support from someone who has been in your shoes and understands what you are going through helps tremendously. The NICU is known as a “roller coaster” and to be on that ride is like no other, especially during the holidays.
The Mission of Delivering Hope NOLA
Our mission is to provide hope and encouragement to families and babies under NICU care. Unfortunately, the roller coaster ride doesn’t end when you are discharged from the NICU. There are therapists, specialists, expensive formulas, food aversions, sensory and motor development problems, developmental delays, apnea monitors, sleep studies, and some times oxygen tanks. Having a preemie is a long difficult road, and parents need help, advice, support, or just a shoulder to lean on, and we plan to start a support group in January 2015 to address these issues.
If you or anyone you know would like to help or get involved, please contact us at deliveringhopeNOLA (at) gmail (dot) com, on Facebook, Instagram, and even follow us on Twitter. If you would like to make a donation and/or drop off items, our official donations/drop off locations are at any of the State Investors Banks located in Metairie, Lakeview, Harahan, and Mandeville.
About Candace Macaluso
Candace Macaluso has been married for 9 years and has two beautiful children. She was born and raised in Metairie,LA, lived in Birmingham, AL for four years because of her husband’s job and now resides in River Ridge, LA. Her daughter Ava is 5 years old, and her son Graham is 2 years of age. Graham was a micro-preemie, weighing less than 2 pounds at birth. She is a Registered Nurse working in one of our local hospitals and sits on the family team committee for the March of Dimes New Orleans area. She recently co-founded the non-profit organization Delivering Hope NOLA.