Amazing volunteers at Obici

Published 10:17 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2018

For those who are inclined to volunteer their time, opportunities abound. Many fine organizations both in Suffolk and region-wide are able to do their work only because of the dedication of thousands of amazing volunteers, and we give all of them credit for the work they do.

But we want to take a special moment right here and now to honor a very special group of volunteers at Sentara Obici Hospital.

The “Arms of Love” program has trained about 25 volunteers to date. These volunteers are signing on for an incredibly difficult and heartbreaking — but also rewarding — job. They are showing some extra love to babies who are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome due to opioid use by their mothers during pregnancy.

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The opioid crisis facing our nation likely hasn’t escaped anyone who has been paying attention to the news the past few years, and pregnant women have, sadly, been no exception.

According to the March of Dimes, babies suffering from this syndrome can suffer from body shakes, fussiness, excessive crying, problems feeding and sleeping and more, breathing problems, fever, diarrhea, stuffy nose and more. It’s easy to see why these symptoms would not only make a baby miserable and threaten its health but also be difficult and frightening for adults to witness and try to soothe.

This special group of volunteers, however, has signed on to cuddle these babies for 30 minutes to an hour at a time. They hold the child, rock them, make soothing noises and ensure the environment has few stimuli that might irritate the child.

These dedicated volunteers are taking on a mighty task for no compensation, and it’s working.

This year, six infants — thankfully, a fairly small number compared to about 1,200 births at Obici so far this year — have been served by the program. The hospital compared the length of stay between three infants with this syndrome before the program started and three after it started. The length of stay in the hospital was reduced by an average of 26.3 days, and the number of days on methadone treatment was almost cut in half.

We applaud these amazing volunteers for their work and, while we hope this program is never needed again, we hope this program stays in place in case there’s a baby in need of a little extra love.