DENVER — Sandy Dimmitt will tell you, visiting Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children is the best part of her day.
"The best part of my day is holding a baby," Dimmitt said.
Around the hospital, she's known as the "baby whisperer." She's one of thirty people who volunteer for the cuddler program in the largest Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the entire Rocky Mountain region.
She comforts the hospital's littlest patients with something as simple as human touch.
"They’re in the NICU for so long, parents will have to go back to work, have to resume their everyday life while their babies are here," said Michael Guthrie, Director of the Spiritual Care Department at Presbyterian/St. Lukes Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. "Our cuddlers help fill in some of that basic touch therapy and development for those kids."
Studies show touch can help premature babies gain weight faster and shorten the length of their hospital stay.
For Sandy, it's personal. Her cousin's baby was born at just 1 pound 8 ounces and was the very first baby Dimmitt cuddled at the hospital 20 years ago. Her cousin had to go back to Wyoming to care for her other children while her tiny baby stayed in the NICU in Colorado.
"It was excruciating for her to not be with her baby," Dimmitt said. "But she knew somebody was here."
For babies, the touch is essential to their development and for parents, it gives them comfort knowing they are getting love around the clock.
"It’s really difficult for the parents because they’re so torn between their kids being in the NICU and them needing to go back to everyday life," Guthrie said.
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