It’s funny how time flies. But in the moment when you’re in the NICU with your brand new preemie, it can seem to tick by so slowly. When you’re neck-deep in a situation, it can feel hopeless.
Today as we celebrate the 10th birthday of our very own miracle, Kaleb Moore we encourage all those who feel like they’re in hopeless situations to take heart. It may take courage to push forward, to look up, to have hope when there seems to be no reason to do so, but that courage will have a positive impact on your outcome, no matter what.
Ten years ago today, a preemie was born. It was a dire situation – to say it was an emergency would be an understatement. For the baby boy was just too small. He was too underdeveloped to survive. He weighed only a pound and an ounce. He was very fragile indeed.
Many medical professionals wanted to give up on him. It’s not that they didn’t care. They did. But their expertise and experience told them that this baby wasn’t meant to survive. They were so wrong.
Kaleb is remarkable, not just because of how his life began, but because of his zest for life. Being born prematurely hasn’t left him totally unaffected, but he’s an amazing person to know. And he has achieved so much because he just keeps on doing and learning and growing.
Kaleb is curious, rambunctious in the best way, and full of energy. And when you talk to him you so easily forget his story. You forget his humble beginnings. No, it doesn’t come to mind. But the moment it does, you’re shocked.
What an amazing guy Mr. Miracle Kaleb Moore is! His life is a testimony and every year on this day we not only celebrate, but releflect. Every year on this day to us is a call to look at our troubles and see that even the seemingly most hopeless situation can turn out to be the beginning of an amazing success story.
Our technology through the years has been advancing to provide parents with mentors that can support them through the telephone and through field visits in the hospital while the baby is in the NICU.
With the recent pandemic that has spread throughout the globe, more than ever the field of telehealth has become important.
This is the reason that The Gift of Life has decided to partner with Akos Connect to bring that emotional support in a secure and HIPAA compliant way for our NICU families.
Having a telehealth mentor allows parents the ability to follow up when they are not able to meet face to face. It also allows for a team approach to provide referrals to other service providers that can help you in the journey through the NICU and beyond.
One important time that parents benefit from our telehealth mentors is post-delivery when the baby first gets admitted to the NICU and just before being discharged home.
These are scary times for parents and knowing that they have a mentor to contact them and offer emotional support and referrals to other services when available, brings much needed comfort and a decrease in their stress level.
This year with this pandemic of COVID-19, our families have been struggling more due to the forced social isolation, financial struggles, and fear of the unknown outcomes.
Support the parents of preemies. Support The Gift of Life. Donate Now.
What’s the best way to get the most enjoyment from the Christmas season? For some, it’s all about the presents. For others, it’s about spending time with loved ones. And if you’re anything like me, then it will be (at least slightly) about the break from routine pressures. But do any of these things capture the true pinnacle holiday enjoyment?
It does my heart well to send loved ones special greetings. And I can’t say I don’t take pleasure in getting a gift of two (or three). And having those precious extra moments to reflect mean the world to me, but my focus during Christmas and New Years isn’t to slack off but to capture opportunity. Of a truth, it’s a tradition for The Gift of Life team.
Because getting the most enjoyment out of the holiday season means to get down to it’s true meaning. It’s more than get-togethers and gifts. It’s more than well wishing. The holidays are about doing as much as you can to fill as much of the world with love as you can.
It’s about letting that love from others flow through you (especially if you’re prone to be a grump). It’s about being a source of love for those who need to be filled up. It’s about allowing yourself, even if you have to expend precious energy, to serve as an integral part of the outpouring and overflow.
The holiday season is always a busy time at The Gift of Life. This year is no different. In fact, it may prove one of the busiest Christmas and New Year seasons we’ve seen yet. Though many get overwhelmed this time of year, we find the rush is inspiring as we look forward to achieving great things in 2020.
Our annual Christmas teddy bear and preemie hat delivery to the NICU was a grand success. As for me, it was my first visit there. Now though for me, as mentioned, I tend to go into isolation and reflection mode around this time of year, I don’t think any greater insight could’ve been bestowed upon me than that which I found right there in the NICU.
Of all people, it was the receptionist that did it, as she was checking my ID and taking my picture for the visitor badge. We had just brought in all the gift bags and sat them around the large Christmas tree. The receptionist was in near tears.
“You see that rack behind me?” she said, “oh it’s always full with toy donations for the children… Nothing for the preemies, though. Rarely does anything ever goes to that side.”
“So what we do is needed?” I asked, shocked.
Normally, when I tell people about The Gift of Life and who I am in the organization and what we do they don’t cry.
Many don’t show any emotional response at all because they can’t relate. When someone’s life has been touched by premature birth, I can often tell before they speak up because of their response to our mission.
She didn’t tell me, but I’ll bet the receptionist has seen countless preemies and their families and come to know their stories. She’s one of us; a person with a heart for the tiniest of us all and those that love them.
Have you ever held a baby that could fit in the palm of your hand? Have you ever seen one up close – tubes and tape and all? I was given one of their diapers as a souvenir.
And while we were there we were able to introduce ourselves to a few of the preemie parents. All of them were exhausted. All welcomed our visit.
Like the receptionist and other hospital staff, like the much-needed smiles we inspired on the preemie parents’ faces that day, I’m thankful for The Gift of Life.
I’m thankful for the blessing of the opportunity and ability to extend love in a much needed area, to a group that often goes overlooked, especially during the holidays.
It was the experience of the isolation and need in the NICU that inspired Rosie and Marcus Moore to found our organization. And, however ironically fitting, Christmas season around here kicks off with Rosie’s birthday.
As Rosie most-notably always says, “Remember to dream because dreams do come true”.
And I say, “One person can make a difference” (though I think she said it first). Rosie proves every day what one person can do.
Since founding The Gift of Life, Rosie has become an author, speaker, mentor (especially to me), beauty queen, pageant coach, doula, and nurse consultant. She was already a mother, wedding planner, and passionate tap dancer. I, like many, am proud to call her friend.
And I have to confess we had a spectacular time celebrating her birthday this year.
How will You Transform Lives in 2020?
You can expect a lot of great things to be going on at The Gift of Life this year. Our goal is to raise the funds we need to both continue and expand our outreach operations. To this end, we’ve got a lot of great events planned for the soon-upon-us year. The biggest being our Black Tie Gala that’s set to take place at the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort.
You’re going to be there, right?
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from The Gift of Life’s team
What exactly is EMDR and what does it do? Before I begin, let me share a little about my story as a child born prematurely in 1955. It is a surreal thought, really, that I was expected to die on the day I was born, but I survived. My parents never talked about it much, except for the statement, “Andy was almost born on the Rochester Bridge” as my dad raced to the hospital. Everyone would laugh. That was about all I knew or cared to know, for that matter.
What does a premature birth have to do with EMDR, and what exactly is EMDR? Without getting too much in the weeds, let’s just say it is a rather miraculous discovery that processes distressing emotions and body sensations that seem to get triggered throughout the life span. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, hence the need for the acronym EMDR.
What happens with the human brain when distressing experiences occur is the distressing body sensations and emotions are usually managed at night, when we go into the REM sleep cycle. During REM, our eyes move back and forth, processing the material from the day that we do not need. For example, if you get a speeding ticket, you may experience body sensations and emotions throughout the traffic stop, but after a good night’s sleep, you can talk about the traffic stop without feeling the emotions or body sensations. You are left with the gist of the event. You do not re-experience the emotions and body sensations.
The event becomes just this thing that happened that you will take care of and go along with your life, but you will drive more carefully. When our brain works properly, this is the mechanism that allows us to have an experience and learn from it. It is a very good system for keeping us safe and helping us to learn and grow. It is the mechanism that causes us to change our behavior.
When a trauma is experienced, like a doctor telling you your baby has a 10 percent chance of survival tonight, well, that moment is burned into the parent’s psyche. It will be replayed over and over with body sensations and emotions coming alive every time that image is pondered. This is very different from the traffic stop. REM sleep is not powerful enough to process traumatic events. They get stuck. Emotions and body sensations are activated every time the thought of the event occurs and talking about the event is worse.
Sadly, even if this innocent premature child survives, that “your child might die tonight” image will remain and be troubling for the parent forever. These traumatic moments take on a life of their own and begin to create what we call in the mental health community “negative cognitions.” This simple phrase may sound rather harmless, but these words describe a way of thinking and behaving about everything in a person’s life. For example, if the child does not survive, the mother and perhaps the father may think, “I did something wrong” or “I’m to blame” or “I can’t trust” God or the universe or the doctors. These words are not limited to the event related to the newborn, but these negative cognitions infiltrate every aspect of the person’s life.
Now the mother hates going to the doctors for her own medical care because she doesn’t trust doctors. She starts to punish herself because she feels it is her fault. She may eat or drink in excess or not eat at all and develop an eating disorder. The husband may blame the wife, thus impairing the marriage. It is not unusual for parents who have lost a child to divorce. I could go on, but you get the idea. The loss of a newborn can also affect the next healthy child born who hears the story. The parents can become overprotective. The healthy child is fearful of getting sick because of how anxious the parents get. The healthy kid may have split in two, trying to be the deceased child and trying to be themselves and in the end just feeling lost.
These things do not always happen to everyone. These are things that may happen, and parents who have had such experiences should be vigilant. They should also know EMDR fixes all of these issues. Yes, all of them.
One of the beautiful things about EMDR is that it removes the distressing thoughts, feelings, images, memories, and body sensation. It also causes an adaptive shift in the person’s negative belief. For example, “I’m to blame” after EMDR treatment shifts to “I didn’t do anything wrong.” During the process of EMDR, there is little to no talking. The therapist sets up the process, begins stimulating the clients with the eye movement, and manages the session. (The therapist moves a hand back and forth, and the client tracks the hand to mimic REM sleep.)
As I said, REM sleep does not seem to be powerful enough to process traumas. The REM system breaks down. EMDR picks up where REM leaves off, and EMDR seems to be far more powerful than REM. EMDR is like REM on steroids. EMDR processes troubling material, and after the session, the event is no longer activated to the degree it was activated in the past and the parent can start to move beyond the event.
The adaptive shift of the negative cognition to the positive cognition is perhaps the most remarkable component of EMDR. This shift happens in the client’s own mind. It is permanent, and when it happens, the client believes it in every cell in their body because the thought is true; the negative cognition is the lie.
Unfortunately, you cannot think or talk yourself out of the troubling emotions, nor can you just tell yourself, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” It doesn’t work. Your head might know it’s true, but your heart doesn’t buy it. EMDR gets your heart in line with your head.
Oh, back to me and my premature birth. This may be bad news not just for parents of children born prematurely but for all of us. Every one of us is living our life through a negative belief system. Our brains are designed to collect this negative belief in childhood, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. It is happening outside of our awareness. You may be already telling yourself, “Not me. What do these stupid psychologists know anyway?”
Sue Johnson, the developer of the very effective couples therapy known as Emotion Focused Therapy, tells us that all couples who come for counseling have one person who feels like they don’t matter and another person who feels like they aren’t good enough. This happens at a rate of 85% of the time. The other 15% of the time, there are two I don’t matter people living together or two I’m not good enough people. My wife and I are both not good enough people, that is, until we did EMDR to shift the belief to “I am good enough.”
So, using Johnson’s premise that everyone is either an I don’t matter or I’m not good enough person, let’s look at the premature event and which of one of these two cognitions are present in this situation.
On the day I was born, my negative belief was born too. Before I could walk or talk. Before either of my parents held me, I was “not good enough.” My negative cognition and I were born on that same day. All of us get a negative cognition early in life. Our brain development is designed for this to happen. One of our life tasks is to work our way out of this negative perspective. Some people never do. Some people are not even aware that their life can be so much more than it is.
I always say that people who come in my office, people in great distress and turmoil, have received an invitation, a most beautiful invitation to change and find their authentic self. EMDR is the only way I have ever found that can facilitate such a dramatic transformation. EMDR has this power because it changes the brain’s circuitry in a permanent and adaptive way.
On the day I was born, a lot of negative beliefs were flying around me in that incubator. I was weak. I was different, not like all the other healthy kids crying in unison in the other room. I was alone. I was a disappointment. All the other parents were passing out cigars; mine were calling the priest for blessing before my death. But the lingering negative cognition that has been the driving force in my life that encompasses all those other negative beliefs is “I’m not good enough.”
I had great parents. I would never want to change my parents for anything in the world. I love them both dearly, but they did this thing where they would compare me to other kids. You know, “Why can’t you study like Johnnie?” “Why don’t you practice harder like Billy?” That’s it. That is all it takes to ignite a negative cognition to begin taking over one’s life. I identified with their statements. It was clear my parents thought these other kids were better than me. I was not good enough. This statement was not a stretch to accept; after all, on the day I was born, I was not good enough.
The good news is EMDR changed everything for me. If I was still being driven by the “I’m not good enough” cognition, I would not be someone who trains therapists from around the country. I would never think I could write a book that mattered to people. I would never think I had anything of value to share with you or anyone else. In the end, I am good enough, and the cognition that began on the day I was born is no more.
I know as parents you are thinking, “I’ll never say that to my kid. I’ll never compare them to anyone.” Listen, everyone gets a negative belief. Our brain development is designed so kids pick up a belief that they must figure out. A teacher can make your child feel not good enough. If they don’t make the basketball team, they are not good enough. If their girlfriend breaks up with them, they are not good enough. Just love your child and know they, just like you, will have to identify and correct the negative belief.
That premature birth was the type of traumatic event that is also one of those wonderful invitations to change and grow.
Happy Thanksgiving 2018. Today is a day of feasting, family, friends, and making new fond memories. For many, it’s all about food. Passionate home chefs show off the best of their cooking skills. Passionate eaters show off their ability to put it all away.
For some, it’s a spiritual time as they reflect on goodness and count their blessings. The patriotic, philosophical, and political minded look to history to justify the day’s significance. To the lonely and the heartbroken this and any holiday that’s all about gathering is just another reminder of their sorrows. Their state is an opportunity for a miracle.
Extending love to someone that’s hurting can enrich your own joy this holiday season. At the Gift of Life, we extend love to the family of preemies in the NICU. It’s difficult not being able to bring your newborn home for the holidays. It can be heart wrenching to spend Thanksgiving in the NICU, hoping but not certain that your beautiful brand new baby will survive.
Such an experience tests faith, character, and family bonds. To these parents we offer love, encouragement, and support. They find hope in founders Rosie and Marcus’ testimony about their son Kaleb, who now thrives but was given less than a 10% chance of survival at birth.
There are some studies conducted on premature babies that indicate certain body language that is indicative of pain. In the study that was done by Dr. Martin Schiavenato, they used newborn babies undergoing a circumcision to determine what their expressions were at the time of a circumcision and neonates getting a heel stick. It was noted that there was not a difference in the way that the babies exhibited pain, they both showed it in their eyebrow movement and in their mouth. The neonates had a wider open mouth during the heel stick. This was one study done to show how pain was exhibited during a routine procedure. In this instance this is where the nurses can find ethical dilemmas because although the heel sticks are necessary for routine lab work, the neonates have such thin skin, that at this point the heel would be very raw and painful after multiple heel sticks throughout the day (Schiavenato, Butler-O’Hara, & Scovanner, 2011). Another sign is the hands up. It may look cute because we do not know what the sign means initially, but it does mean stop I am in pain. So these preemies are very smart despite their premature birth in letting staff know that they are in pain.