Kelli Kelley is a proud mom to two healthy children, now 7 and 9. But starting out, things weren’t so easy.
Kelli’s first child, Jackson, was born 16 weeks early. At birth, Jackson weighed just a pound and a half, and spent four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Kelli spent years taking Jackson to physical, occupational and speech therapy; going through surgeries and fretting through endless doctors visits. Just a few years later, Kelli’s daughter Lauren was born, six weeks premature. Although Lauren didn’t require the same level of care as Jackson, Kelli still found herself shuttling to various doctors to address delays associated with Lauren’s prematurity.
Inspired by her experience and the challenges she faced raising two premature children, Kelli became involved in the March of Dimes. She now serves on the local chapter’s Board of Directors and spent two years serving on their National Advisory Council. It was in this position that Kelli saw first-hand what she had also experienced: support for families of preemies vanishes when they leave the hospital. Not only are preemies still medically fragile, but as she points out, “Most parents are blindsided by the emotional, physical, financial and psychological fallout of caring for their children.”
Kelli set out to create a comprehensive resource for parents of preemies. Called Hand to Hold, this organization is an official fund of the Austin Community Foundation. The organization is dedicated to matching new parents with trained volunteers who have gone through a premature birth. Although Hand to Hold has its roots in Austin and will pilot this matching program here, Kelli said the organization plans to offer peer to peer matching across the country.
In addition to peer matching, Hand to Hold will host a quarterly discussion series. The first event is just around the corner:
|When:||Wednesday, June 23rd; 7-9 p.m.|
|Where:||St. David’s Medical Center (919 East 32nd Street)|
|Agenda:||Dr. Jennifer Gunter, OB, mother of preemies and author of The Preemie Primer, www.preemieprimer, will speak about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an issue many parents of preemies face after the NICU.|
Hand to Hold also plans to offer a newsletter, support groups, bereavement support, playdates and a resource guide for families.
If you’d like to learn more about Hand to Hold or to volunteer, you can visit the Hand to Hold Facebook page.
Did you experience a preterm birth? If so, what has been the most challenging aspect of having a preemie?
Written by: Nicole Basham