By Jennifer Marangos
Stephanie Schmal knows all too well what it’s like to have a sick newborn. And what it’s like to put the well-being of that tiny little life who you’ve only just met in the hands of virtual strangers—the doctors and nurses of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
But, entrust Stephanie says she did when Baby Ethan was born, struggling through 12 long and painful days as she and her husband learned more and more about Ethan’s illness—skeletal dysplasia—and were told that their precious baby boy would likely never be coming home.
But, at the end of those 12 days, Baby Ethan did go home. Now four months old, Ethan, Stephanie says, is a bit of a medical enigma. He still has skeletal dysplasia, a form of dwarfism that is deemed fatal, according to Stephanie, but he is “pretty much healthy. He is just very small.”
Stephanie’s brief experience with the NICU—she says Ethan was cared for at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia—and her appreciation for the excellent care he received, her indescribable gratitude for being able to bring Baby Ethan home and her understanding of what the families of NICU babies are experiencing, gave birth to a project designed to help NICU babies.
An online fund has been established to benefit Stephanie’s NICU project, and the Lower Macungie (Lehigh County) mom says the donations will be used to buy items such as holiday baby blankets, onesies, Soduku books, mugs filled with candy.
As of Monday, nearly $1,407 in donations had been raised via the GoFundMe grassroots donation site, and Stephanie says the holiday gifts will be distributed to the 40 NICU beds at Lehigh Valley Health Network and NICU patients at St. Luke's University Health Network.
Stephanie initially thought she would bring the care packages to C.H.O.P., but she decided to focus on Lehigh Valley and St. Luke's hospitals because she thinks they may get fewer donations of this kind than C.H.O.P.
In her description for the campaign, Stephanie explains, “I absolutely love helping others out so I decided to make packages for NICU babies over the holiday, and I need your help to make this happen. Between medical bills and everything going on it's hard to get much when your baby needs special care. Please help make their Christmas just a little brighter if you are able. Thank you!"
The campaign has a total goal of $5,000. Stephanie says she has set a tentative deadline of Dec. 15 for donations to give her time to purchase the items for the care packages, put the boxes together and deliver them.
To contribute to the campaign, or read more about it, click here.