Right on time

A local woman works to fight prematurity

By Stephanie Dolan

In the United States, one out of every 10 babies is born prematurely. November is Prematurity Awareness Month; the goal is to shed light on this serious and expensive problem.

“It’s incredible,” Kerri Kibbey, director of special events, marketing and public relations for High Risk Hope, said. “For being one of the most developed counties we have one of the highest rates of prematurity.”

Emily Collins discovered this when her third child, Nick, was born prematurely. Collins had spent several weeks on bed rest and had been admitted to the hospital five times as a result of having a high-risk pregnancy.

“My first two pregnancies were totally normal,” she said. “My third, I ended up making nine trips to St. Francis, and I was admitted five times. I had a lot of issues with bleeding. I ended up having a C-section when I was 30 weeks pregnant. Nick spent two months in the NICU.”

Nick was born at only 30 weeks. (Submitted photos)

Making a change

After such an ordeal, Collins began researching organizations who could help high-risk moms during bouts of hospitalized bed rest as well as mothers whose infants are being cared for in the NICU.

“I am an ambassador to the new Indianapolis branch of the nonprofit, High Risk Hope (HRH), and I am raising funds to bring the HRH Bundle Program to Indianapolis,” she said. “HRH supports women on hospital bed rest due to a high-risk pregnancy, along with families with an infant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, by providing Bed Rest Bundles and NICU Baby Bundles. These bundles contain items such as a baby book, milestone cards, etc. and are designed to brighten a mom’s day while going through such a lonely and difficult time.”

Collins said that, after Nick was born 10 weeks prematurely this past Valentine’s Day, it became very important to her to help women in her position.

“I believe there are likely many moms on the south side who have experienced a high-risk pregnancy or have had a child in the NICU and who would like to pay it forward as well,” she said. “I would like to find a way to connect with them.”

High Risk Hope is based in Tampa, Fla., and – at present – is the only local and national nonprofit dedicated to providing support and encouragement to women on long-term hospital bed rest and premature infants in the NICU.

“We are the catalyst in the global fight to end premature birth,” Kibbey said.

High Risk Hope delivers bundles to women on hospitalized bed rest, working to fight depression and anxiety during what can be a lonely and frightening time.

Making a difference

To that end, Collins has organized several fundraisers that will help create bundles and knapsacks for distribution in Indianapolis.

“We launched the Bundle Program several months ago,” Kibbey said. “At that time, we reached out to hospitals and individuals who had shown interest in bringing High Risk Hope to their cities. We were thrilled when Emily not only jumped at the opportunity, but immediately set up a Facebook fundraiser and raised over $600 in a matter of a few days. She has also organized three events in her area to raise even more funds to continue to support families in Indianapolis.”

These events include Pub Night for Preemies on Nov. 8, Mimosas for Moms on Nov. 11 and Brews for Babies on Nov. 16. All the events can be found on Facebook. Mimosas for Moms will be a Southside event.

“All proceeds for HRH Indy go directly to women and families at Franciscan Health,” Collins said.

HRH currently operates in seven hospitals in Tampa and in one in Orange County, Calif. Starting in November, they can now add Indiana to their list of served states.

“Going to another state is incredible,” Kibbey said. “We have moms reach out to us all the time. Being able to curate these bundles and have them ready for when someone like Emily calls is amazing. We started with one woman, one basket and one month and now we are reaching out across state lines. That’s going to be priceless for Mom and baby.”

Heather Barrow founded HRH in 2011 after she was placed on bed rest and realized there were no organizations serving Moms in her position.

Making memories

After leaving the hospital, Barrow began creating one basket a month for a mother on hospitalized bed rest. The hospital began requesting more, and she got some friends together and started the nonprofit now known as High Risk Hope.

Emily Collins was admitted to the hospital five times before giving birth prematurely to Nick.

“She has a happy, perfectly healthy baby now,” Kibbey said. “But there was no nonprofit reaching out. There were no organizations. Some people in the hospital have nobody. That’s a scary situation where you need family and friends. Some people don’t have them because they don’t live in the area or they have to be at work.”

Kibbey said that anxiety and depression are a huge concern, especially when patients are experiencing the stress levels that come with being on bed rest and having a premature infant in the NICU.

“Our bundles were created to provide support to families outside of the Tampa Bay area and bringing High Risk Hope Bundles to Indianapolis is incredible,” she continued. “The bundles include items that our patients have repeatedly come back to say were key in daily inspiration and kept their hope alive during their difficult journey.”

Kibbey and Collins will be making the first delivery of approximately 40 bundles to St. Francis Hospital on Nov. 5.

Anyone wishing to donate or be a part of HRH Indy can email Collins directly at bundlesforbabiesindy@gmail.com.

For more information on High Risk Hope, visit their website at highriskhope.org.