The Preemie Project Comes to Genesis

Helping to personalize the NICU stay 

  • Trisha Poole of Davenport shows items made courtesy of The Preemie Project, which gives handmade items to premature and critically ill babies in Iowa neonatal intensive care units.
  • Hadley McDonald from Preston, Iowa modeled Easter-themed handmade items from The Preemie Project during her stay at the Genesis NICU.

Trisha Poole remembers the day she got to pick out the bedding for her premature baby in the hospital neonatal intensive care unit. With her daughter still so small and unable to wear clothes, it brought her joy to make a small decision in her daily care.

“It may seem like a little thing to pick out her bedding, but it made me smile,” Poole of Davenport recalls. “Being able to change something, make a decision for my baby, and seeing how cute she would be laid in the bedding I had picked out, helped me. 

“I couldn’t hold her for the first two weeks after her birth, but I could do something to take part in her care. It was what I needed.”

The handmade bedding came courtesy of The Preemie Project of Iowa City.

Three years later, she still remembers how happy the hand-sewn bedding and gifts of knitted and crocheted booties and hats made her feel during the long hospital journey of her daughter, Tempera

Coming to Genesis

Now, Trisha Poole is heading up a new Quad Cities chapter of The Preemie Project to benefit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport.

The Preemie Project gives handmade hats, booties and blankets to premature and critically ill babies. It also provides bereavement clothing and items of remembrance to grieving families who have suffered a loss.

Poole, a mother of three children and director of the Quad Cities chapter, is seeking volunteers and donations to help provide gifts for the Genesis NICU babies. She has the help of the project’s nurse liaison, Tonya Zimmerman, RN, a Charge Nurse in the Genesis NICU.

“The program at Genesis is still in the early stages, but it’s accessible to parents who want to pick out bedding and outfits for their babies who are in the NICU,” Zimmerman says. “It’s difficult when parents are not able to care for their premature or critically ill babies, and this helps them to feel in control of something.”

A project is born

The Preemie Project was founded in 2005 by Coralville, Iowa native Laura Pabich, who decided to use her passion for knitting to bring cheer to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital and learned she would need hats, booties and blankets for more than 900 infants each year. Inspired to help warm these tiny heads and feet, she summoned individuals on blogs, online message boards and email lists to join her in knitting and crocheting for babies.

The Preemie Project was born. Since then, it has grown into a statewide organization with the mission of providing support and comfort to preterm and critically ill infants in Iowa neonatal intensive care units.

Poole knows first-hand how important the personalized gifts can be for families with a baby in the NICU.

Poole family experience

Trisha and Matt Poole’s daughter, Temperance, entered the world 12 weeks early in March, 2010, weighing only 1 pound, 15 ounces, at University of Iowa Hospitals. Her mother was transferred there from Genesis because of pregnancy complications, including pre-eclampsia and HELLPs. Doctors hoped strict bed rest and remaining in the hospital for 10 weeks would keep her stable enough to deliver her baby at 37 weeks. Her body had different plans. 

Just four days later, with the only hope of keeping mom and baby alive, doctors delivered Temperance Poole. 

Once she herself recovered from her scary medical ordeal, Trisha Poole focused on how to bond with a baby who was too small to hold. The joy of having her survive despite being born 12 weeks premature mixed with the sadness of not being able to hold and care for her baby in the traditional way of other new moms.

At first, she could only lay her hand on her baby. When, after two weeks, she and her husband finally got to hold Temperance briefly for the first time, the occasion was so momentous they kept the little blankets that swaddled her as a family keepsake.

“We still have those blankets we held her with and will forever cherish the little things that made our NICU journey a little more bearable,” Trisha Poole recalls. “For that, we are thankful for The Preemie Project and all their volunteers.”

Even though she could assist with her daughter’s small care needs, such as taking her temperature or changing her diaper, she never felt like she was her caregiver. “I knew everything she needed to survive had to come from the nurses and machines,” she says.

She began to feel like the NICU stay would last forever and needed something purposeful to do. A nurse led her to the linen closet and let her pick out a “bed outfit” for her daughter made by The Preemie Project (she was too little for clothes.) Picking out her baby’s bedding for each day made her feel better.

Temperance is now 3 years old, but her NICU journey still motivates her mother, who is working to spread The Preemie Project’s joy to the Genesis NICU. For example, she personally crocheted 15 Easter-themed hats for Genesis. A current initiative is “Zoo in the NICU” in hopes to have a donation of zoo-themed hats and booties in July.

“Until you really know what it’s like to have a baby in the NICU, you will never know how these items help those families cope with their difficult days,” Poole concludes. “We’re excited to bring the Preemie Project to Genesis.”

The Preemie Project

To find out more about The Preemie Project, go to www.thepreemieproject.com. The website includes crafting guidelines, measurements, patterns and approved materials for various projects to benefit babies in the Genesis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Volunteers also will find upcoming information about future holiday-themed projects, drop-off sites and work groups. To follow The Preemie Project events, please “like” The Preemie Project on Facebook. For more information, call Trisha Poole, Quad Cities director of The Preemie Project, at (563) 650-5217.

Drop-Off Site

People who wish to donate their handcrafted creations following The Preemie Project guidelines can do so at: The Yarn Shoppe, Olde Town Mall, 903 E. Kimberly Road, Ste. 20, Davenport. A box has been placed there with donation tags for volunteers, and the employees there are excited to help.

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