After 14 weeks of pregnancy, Ashley Agnitch was told her daughter had trisomy 18 (or Edwards' syndrome), a genetic abnormality that limited her daughter's heart from fully developing, and was not expected to survive pregnancy, labor, or delivery, Agnitch recalled.
"They had told me that the pregnancy would end in miscarriage, and also offered—and recommended—medical termination of the pregnancy. We chose not to do that, we chose to give her life with whatever that looked like," she said.
- Photo Courtesy Of Dignity Health
- DONATION Ashley Agnitch and her family stand with Marian's Cuddle Cot and Marian Regional Medical Center Family Birthing Center representatives.
Agnitch, a labor and delivery nurse at French Hospital who previously worked at Marian Regional Medical Center (both Dignity Health hospitals), tried to figure out what resources were available to help her child; then she discovered Cuddle Cots. They keep babies cool in order to slow down the length of time it take them to pass away.
She said she looked at several Central Coast hospitals and hospice agencies prior to her daughter Greta's birth, but none had Cuddle Cots for rent. Her daughter survived birth and lived for five hours, Agnitch said.
"With a stillborn baby, or infant death, the process of death occurs much more rapidly. Parents can only handle their babies for a short period of time," she explained.
If parents wanted to put them in a final outfit, wrap them, or baptize them, the baby would have to go to the morgue for cooling and then come back to be handled, she said.
"That's an additional morbid experience for a family to go through. The Cuddle Cots are a bassinet that goes on a little stand that connects to a cooling pad that's very discreet. It keeps the baby nice and cool so the baby can be handled more often. It eliminates any need for the baby to go to the morgue. They can stay with their parents if they place the baby in the bassinet between holding the baby," Agnitch said. "Although we were prepared, [Cuddle Cots] would have made a huge difference in our experience and time with Greta."
After Greta passed away, a lot of Agnitch's family and friends asked where they could make a donation to honor her name, and she kept coming back to Cuddle Cots and decided to create a GoFundMe to purchase a Cuddle Cot for a Dignity Health hospital, she said.
"My goal was to provide one between Marian and French Hospital, but I couldn't choose. Luckily, I didn't have to make that decision because we were able to donate one to each hospital," Agnitch said.
The GoFundMe raised a little more than $12,000, enough to purchase a Cuddle Cot for both hospitals—as well as spare parts and plaques to honor Greta—in order to provide families with the best support during an extremely isolating experience, she said.
"I always like to describe it as it gives the families the gift of time. We were fortunate to know so far in advance, we were prepared, and we had our family ready to come out. We knew we wanted a baptism and the chaplain available. We had time to really research. ... A lot of times in these situations, families don't have time to prepare," Agnitch said.
Agnitch said she hopes to continue raising funds to give all Central Coast hospitals a Cuddle Cot to provide this opportunity to everyone.
"I want them to feel as a medical system on the Central Coast that we are here to support them. We definitely do our best to do everything we can, but the more resources we have will give them the most time [with their child]," Agnitch said.
Visit gofundme.com//f/cuddle-cot-in-memory-of-greta for more information and to donate.
• Religious organizations, veterans, active duty military members, and community activists launched a nonprofit in February that aims to help Afghan refugees start new lives on the Central Coast. SLO4Home is partnering with Church World Services, which has resettled refugees since WWII, to raise $600,000 and help at least 10 families begin anew in San Luis Obispo County, according to press materials. Donations will fund transportation costs, housing support, and basic necessities and services to help families move into their new homes, start jobs, and attend school. Make a donation or learn more by visiting slo4home.org. Δ
Reach Staff Writer Taylor O'Connor from New Times' sister paper, the Sun, at email@example.com.