St. Vincent’s new Cuddle Cot provides time to say goodbye

Unique cooling unit gives families extra time with stillborn babies

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MIDDLEBURG – A Clay County family got the closure they needed after donating a Cuddle Cot to Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County Hospital last Friday.

Elizabeth Hartsfield, her family and her friends gathered in a small conference room to present the hospital with its first Cuddle Cot. Not only is this a big deal for the hospital, but it’s a big deal for Clay because it’s the only one in the county. The Cuddle Cot allows parents to spend days with their stillborn child rather than the usual handful of hours and it gives families the time they need to grieve and come to terms with their loss.

“Arlo was 35 weeks, six days when he died and we don’t know why,” Hartsfield said. “It’s just like a live baby. You have to give birth and all that stuff...and we only got six hours with him.”

The situation was already devastating and it’s even more so when a parent only gets a handful of hours with the child. Hartsfield felt this pain but she channeled it into something that will give parents in Clay County the closure and the time she wished she had with Arlo.

That something is the Cuddle Cot.

Hartsfield looked into ways to spend more time with Arlo before their final goodbye and she stumbled upon the Cuddle Cot. A Jacksonville hospital was the nearest that had one. After going through what she went through in August of 2019, Hartsfield started raising funds to purchase a Cuddle Cot for St. Vincent’s.

With the help of friends, family and Madison’s Miracle, a Florida-based nonprofit founded by Christina Stamper that helps bring Cuddle Cots to families around the nation, Hartsfield was able to raise the $3,000 needed. St. Vincent’s now has a Cuddle Cot and Hartsfield hopes it gets dusty in a corner, never to be used.

“Ideally, this thing is never used but it’s there for those times when it’s needed,” Hartsfield said.

The Cuddle Cot is a device manufactured in the United Kingdom and it’s a pad that keeps babies cool and stops them from warming. It’s when a baby starts to get warm, it begins to change physically – all leading to where a mother must say goodbye. That time can come as quickly as two hours – Stamper was only given two hours with her child, Madison, back in 2007 – and as long as six hours like in Hartsfield’s case.

“It’s never long enough,” Stamper said.

The Cuddle Cot extends that time by not just a few hours, but by days, giving families the necessary time they need with their child.

“It gives families the time to brush their hair, cloth them, find their birthmarks, feel the shape of their feet and ultimately, reach a spot where that necessary closure can come easier,” Stamper said.

Mothers can hold their child in the Cuddle Cot pad to prevent their body’s natural warmth from heating the baby. Stamper said she’s placed 67 in hospitals across 14 states, but her mission is to get a Cuddle Cot in every hospital.

The problem is awareness. Most hospitals don’t know the device exists, Stamper said, but she’s working to fix that problem. While the staff at St. Vincent’s hopes it gathers dust, it will be there for families.

“I’m sad, happy, relieved and so much more today, but above all of that, I’m grateful that we were able to do this,” Hartsfield said. “Arlo lives on through this.”

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