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Enduring the Loss of a Baby

Virginia HEALFor most people, just the thought of losing a child is beyond comprehension. But for new parents Amy and Zach Sowards, that thought became a reality in April 2010, when their beautiful daughter, Capri Leeann, was stillborn.

Amy and Zach Sowards with their son, Porter Boone. The couple received much-needed support from the HEAL program.

“I was at the doctor’s for a regular visit, and there was no baby’s heartbeat,” Amy recalls. She was admitted to Atrium Medical Center’s Family Birth Center, and her and Zach’s worst fears were confirmed.

Helping the Sowards and other families face their darkest hours is HEAL — short for Help Endure A Loss — Atrium’s perinatal loss program. Sheree Young, RNC, started HEAL in 1998. After having a stillborn child several years earlier, Sheree learned firsthand the depth of such a loss. Her personal understanding, together with tireless dedication, has resulted in HEAL serving more than 1,400 families from across southwest Ohio.

“Grieving parents suffering from a stillbirth, miscarriage or infant death need special help,” Sheree said. She visits families in the Family Birth Center, in the Emergency Department or in their homes, providing emotional support and any practical information they may need.

“Sheree has such a kind heart. She’s amazing,” Amy said. “She really helped us through.”

“For parents who have to say hello and goodbye so quickly, I let them know there’s a support system,” Sheree said. “I also can provide mementos, such as the child’s hand and foot impressions and a soft blanket with the baby’s name.”

Sheree keeps in contact with families as long as they need her, often for a year or more. She readily gives out her pager number and lets people know she’s available 24/7.

HEAL offers several opportunities to network with other bereaved families. “It’s really nice,” said Amy, “to be with other parents who know what you’re going through.”

Activities, Remembrances

HEAL offers several programs to help families move forward:

  • HEALing Together monthly support meetings are held at Atrium Medical Center.
  • Remembrance and Interment Service for Early Pregnancy Loss Held in April, this service is in memory of those babies who were born too tiny and gone too soon.
  • Family Festival A result of parents’ suggestions, this festival is a celebratory social event for parents and siblings who have suffered a loss.
  • Walk to Remember Held the first Sunday in October, this event honors infants and children who have died, regardless of age or circumstance.
  • Memory Tree Lighting On the first Thursday in December, families place a personalized ornament for their lost child on a beautiful white Christmas tree.

For more information on the HEAL program, please call (513) 705-4056.

These Atrium Medical Center locations offer Spiritual Care Services.
HEAL (Help Endure a Loss) Program at Atrium Medical Center
Pastoral Care at Atrium Medical Center
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