For over fifteen years, Pat Rice and his wife, Claire Fitzgerald have volunteered their time to cuddle babies.
The couple are both volunteer “cuddlers” in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. The two hold the babies and speak to them. “Apparently the voice helps make a difference. I don’t know why. But I find that it works pretty well,” said Rice in an interview with ABC News.
According to the nurses and doctors at the hospital, cuddling the infants produces immediate results, such as the baby relaxing and breathing more deeply. As for longer lasting effects, the cuddling produces a more stable body temperature, stronger pain tolerance, and sometimes even stronger vital signs.
Seyi McLelland, the mother of twins born 3 months premature, stated, “You can’t be here 24 hours a day. And it’s very comforting knowing that while you’re not here there’s someone holding your child. And genuinely loving your child.”
In addition to cuddling the babies, the couple also helps comfort the parents of the infants brought into the NICU. Fitzgerald even shares her own experience, having had a sick baby who now has children of his own. “You know these people are scared to death,” Fitzgerald said.
Unfortunately, not all the babies make it. “I’ve done this a long time, but the tears just rolled from my eyes. It’s just hard to see one go,” said Fitzgerald on finding an empty cot at the hospital one day.
However, thanks to the care from the NICU as well the cuddles, most infants go on to thrive.
9-year-old Jonah suffers from a rare glycogen storage disease, meaning his liver is able to store sugar but cannot release it.
At 3 a.m. every morning, Jonah’s mother wakes up to feed him a mixture of water and corn starch, without which Jonah could die.
His mother, Lora Pournazarian, stated in an interview with ABC News, “That’s huge anxiety every night. We go to sleep going, ‘We hope we don’t miss an alarm clock because he could die.'”
However, Jonah’s best friend from preschool has done his best to help too.
Dylan Seigel was only 6 years old when he decided he wanted to help raise money to find a cure for Jonah’s disease. Dr. David Weinstein, a researcher of glycogen storage disease at the University of Florida, had almost run out of funding when he heard of Dylan’s plan to help. Weinstein thought the little boy was simply cute and had no idea how much Dylan would help.
Dylan attacked his goal by writing a book called “Chocolate Bar.” The book explains to his parents that the phrase “chocolate bar” means “awesome.” The book starts out with the sentence, “Disneyland is so chocolate bar,” and finishes with, “I like to help my friends. That is the biggest chocolate bar.”
In a little over a year, Dylan’s book raised over $750,000. Each book sold for $20 in all 50 states and in 42 countries. Every single cent went to Weinstein’s research.
Weinstein told ABC News, “Boy, have I been shocked. He’s raised more money for this disease than all the medical foundations and all the grants combined. Ever.”
When Dylan was asked where he and Jonah would be in the next 10 or 15 years, he replied, “High school, and probably his disease would be cured ’cause it’s not going to take like 15 years to be cured.”
5-year-old Lila May Schow only has a few months to live, so her family decided to throw her the best birthday party they possibly could.
Lila was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma at age 2 and has been fighting the cancer ever since. Her doctors recently told her family that the little girl only has months to live.
“At first we just wanted to do a nice princess party, but we’re on a limited time with Lila,” said her dad, Ryan Schow, in an interview. Together with other members of her family, including her mother and stepfather, Heidi and Blake Hall, Schow decided to include other important events in a girl’s life in addition to the birthday theme. “We decided to give her that prom she’ll never see and that wedding day.”
Lila’s mom mentioned the upcoming event on Facebook, and the family’s entire community joined in to help make Lila’s day even more special.
With all the extra help, Lila’s family turned the Butler Banking Building in Hood River, Oregon, into a castle. The preparations included six different cakes, horse-drawn carriage rides, a DJ, a banquet, princesses, face-painting, and balloons.
“She was pretty impressed. But I’d say her favorite parts were the carriage ride and when her daddy cried because she was so happy.”
As for Lila’s “wedding,” she said “I do” to her Dad. “She’s a very caring little girl. And really resilient and very strong. Even when she’s hit hard with chemo and in her surgeries, she just keeps loving, and has the ability to really inspire people, too.”
Lila loved every minute of her party, even stating that “she had her own fairy tale ball.”
When Sgt. 1st Class Tim Brumit broke his neck in an attempt to save a young girl from drowning, he was paralyzed from the neck down. However, the Special Forces soldier has made it his goal to walk again.
Brumit was on a pontoon boat anchored by his post at Eglin Air Force Base when he heard cries for help and saw a thirteen-year-old girl struggling in the choppy water and heavy rain. Without hesitation, the Green Beret dove off the pontoon boat to help.
Brumit later told the media that he had misjudged the depth of the water and hadn’t realized how shallow the water was at that spot.
A fellow soldier managed to pull Brumit onto a surfboard while another boat rescued the girl.
A father of two, Brumit was admitted into the hospital completely paralyzed from the neck down.
Randy Brumit, Tim Brumit’s father and a retired Army chief officer who also served in special forces, noted, “We’re not built to lay down and die. When he showed up to the hospital, he was totally paralyzed from the neck down, and expected to remain that way for the rest of his life. That’s what we were told.”
However, days later, Brumit was already improving. With the help of emergency surgery, he has already recovered the use of his arms.
According to Randy Brumit, the family motto is “What the mind can conceive, the body can achieve,” and Tim Brumit perseveres in that mentality.
Randy Brumit understands that seeing his son walking again is “very far away. The progress his son has made at this point in time is remarkable, and “His attitude remains positive and is loving the hard workouts.”
Tim Brumit has told his surgeon, “I’m going to walk back in and shake your hand and thank you for what you’ve done with me.”
When a waitress picked up a check for two firefighters, she had no idea how remarkably they would repay the favor.
At 5:30 on a Thursday morning, 24-year-old Liz Woodward served a table where Tim Young and Paul Hullings, New Jersey firefighters, were sitting. Hullings asked Woodward for the biggest cup of coffee the the diner had since he had been up all night working to put out a warehouse fire.
In an interview, Woodward stated, “I had been following the New Brunswick fire on the news. This was their first meal in over 24 hours; the least I could do was buy it for them for all they do every day.”
On the back of the firefighters’ bill, Woodward wrote, “Your breakfast is on me today – Thank you for all that you do; for serving others and for running into the places everyone else runs away from. No matter your role, you are courageous, brave, and strong . . . Thank you for being bold and badass everyday! Fueled by fire and driven by courage – what an example you are. Get some rest.”
Young and Hullings teared up at the bill and thanked the waitress, but Woodward assumed she’d never see them again.
However, when Young went home, he posted a status on Facebook telling his friends what Woodward had done and urging them to go eat at the diner as well.
He and Hullings soon learned that Woodward was trying to raise money to buy a wheelchair-accessible van for her quadriplegic father, and the two decided to help.
Young wrote another Facebook post highlighting the GoFundMe campaign Woodward had started previously. “Turns out, the young lady who gave us a free meal is really the one that could use the help.” Over 1,000 people have helped raise over $70,000, far surpassing the initial goal of $17,000.
Woodward is excited for both her father and for the message her story has helped spread. “This is just one example of how so many people in this world have incredible hearts and they pay it forward so the circle keeps moving.”