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Weather Alert

Freeze Warning, Cumberland Plateau Advisory

Winter-like conditions will be possible for middle Tennessee this weekend. A freeze warning is in effect for Friday and Saturday night. Temperatures will drop to around the freezing mark in Nashville and upper 20s outside the metro area. Saturday night will be even colder with temperatures dropping as low as the mid-20s outside the metro. Breezy NW winds will add to the chill. Bring plants and pets indoors for the weekend and make sure outdoor vegetation is protected as well. In addition to the cold, rain showers along the Cumberland Plateau will change over to light snow overnight. 

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WZTV - Search Results

The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Babies Too Sick To Go Home, Get Big Hearted Cuddlers

CHICAGOAP   A volunteer slips her arms into a gauzy yellow hospital gown and approaches a medical crib holding a tiny newborn hooked up to noisy machines. "OK," she says, with a smile. "Baby time."

 That means cuddle time in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital. Here, as at several other hospitals around the country, strangers offer a simple yet powerful service for newborns too tiny or sick to go home.

When nurses are swamped with other patients and parents cannot make it to the hospital, grandmas, empty-nesters, college students and other volunteers step in. They hold the babies, swaddle them, sing and coo to them, rock them, and treat them as if they were their own.

In this 2013 photo provided by her family, Evelyn Steadman sleeps in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital shortly after her birth in August 2013.

Evelyn was born with brain damage due to a virus known as Cytomegalovirus. While in the hospital, she was held and cuddled by volunteers, in addition to many family members.

Research shows that cuddling helps calm the babies, many who are born prematurely or who have serious health issues, and aids in their early development.

 "You can see them calm, you can see their heart rate drop, you can see their little brows relax," said Kathleen Jones, 52, a cuddler at the Chicago hospital. "They're fighting so hard and they're undergoing all this medical drama and trauma. My heart breaks for them a little bit."

 Newborn intensive care units are noisy, stressful environments. There are babies born extremely prematurely, or with birth defects and other illnesses. Some are too sick to be heldbut not too sick to touch. Cuddlers reach a finger inside their incubators and stroke tiny bare bellies.

Scientific evidence on benefits of cuddling programs is scarce, but the benefits of human touch are well-known. In one study, gentle caressing or placing a hand on preterm infants reduced levels of stress hormones.

Other recent studies have suggested touch may benefit preemies' heart rates and sleep and perhaps even shorten their hospital stays.

 Studies also suggest that early negative experiencesincluding pain, stress and separation from other humansmay hamper brain development, while research in animals shows that positive interactions enhance brain growth, said Dr.

 Evelyn Steadman cries after her mother, Erica Steadman, left, puts in the baby's hearing aids while grandmother, Kathleen Jones, holds her at the baby's home in Crete, Ill. on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Jones, 52, is a longtime volunteer who cuddles newborn babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital.

In August 2013 after Evelyn was born with brain damage due to a virus, she ended up in Comer's neonatal intensive care unit and, in addition to many family members, ended up being cuddled by volunteers, too.

Research shows that cuddling helps calm the babies, many who are born prematurely or who have serious health issues, and aids in their early development. Steadman, 27, says she has little doubt that her daughter benefited from the extra cuddling.

 Jerry Schwartz, medical director of medical neonatology at Torrance Memorial Medical Center near Los Angeles.

The benefit "at the most superficial level" is obvious, he said. "A baby is crying, mom's not there, the nurse is busy with other sick babies, and it's an unpleasant life experience to be crying and unattended to, and, voila! A cuddler comes over and the baby stops crying."

 Nancy Salcido has been a cuddler at Torrance for a year. Her two daughters are grown, and she considers her three-hour cuddling shifts good practice for any potential grandchildren.

 "I just kind of hold them close to me ... and talk to them, sharing my day, or give them little pep talks," Salcido said. "One of the nurses has nicknamed me the baby whisperer.

 

 Parents typically must consent for their babies to be part of cuddling programs, and cuddlers must undergo background checks and training before starting the job.

At Chicago's Comer hospital, that includes lessons in how to swaddle babies tight to make them feel safe and how to maneuver around intravenous lines, as well as instruction in hygiene including frequent hand-washing.

Comer's cuddlers include 74-year-old Frank Dertz, a retired carpenter who heard about the program from his daughter, a Comer nurse.

 Nurse Jennell Davis checks on an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Chicago. Davis says she's very appreciative of volunteers who come to cuddle the infants during her busy night shifts.

"It's quite a blessing for me. I get more out of it than the babies, I think," Dertz said.

Kathleen Jones says the same thing. A mother of three grown daughters and grandmother of two little girls, she joined Comer's program in 2012, working a couple afternoons a week or sometimes at night.

"They say that I look so in love with them when I'm there, but I cannot NOT crack an ear-to-ear smile whenever I pick that little guy or girl up."

 Her love seems obvious as she rocks a stranger's newborn, the baby girl's tiny hand gripping Jones' finger.

 "Ooh, I want to take you home," Jones coos. "You're so brave ... you're going to be feisty, aren't you?"

 Jones used to wonder why parents or other relatives aren't comforting their own babies.

Erica Steadman had had a C-section, and already had her hands full with a toddler at home.

 "She was being held and loved and watched over," she said. "I felt a great sense of relief from that."