When a baby is born too early, it can mean weeks - even months - in the hospital. That can put a lot of pressure on moms and dads.
Justus Lawton and his brother Justin were born April 28th, three months early. Stormont-Vail's Neonatal IntensiveCare has been their home ever since, with mom and dad often at their sides.
Mom Yvonne Lawton says she spends anywhere from three to four hours a day at the hospital. The only day she missed was when three-year old big brother was sick. Couple caring for him with a 40-minute commute from their home in Alma and it can be tough.
That's where volunteers like Pam Alexander step in. Pam worked with the neonatal staff to launch the "Preemie Pals" program last fall. Volunteers are extra hands, helping care for babies whose parents live far away, have to return to work or just need a break. Pam describes her duties as feeding, bathing, taking temperatures, and giving lots of love. She jokes that she's even done laundry.
Since it began in September, Preemie Pals has grown from four volunteers to 16. Each undergoes a special orientation before participating. Pam says she find it particularly rewarding to watch the babies grow and be able to go home.
Yvonne says the program makes all the difference for her. She says it makes her feel very good to know there are people who care as much about her babies as she does. She says knowing that is the only way she can go home at night.
For information on volunteering with Preemie Pals or other programs at Stormont, call 354-6095.