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Gabriel's Gift: Precious Moments for Families

Friday, May 19, 2017
Doris Family

A recent donation to the VIA Maternity Center gives one of the most precious gifts of all – time.

Time for grieving parents to spend with their stillborn baby. Time to cherish the bonds of family. Time to make memories.

Kris and Sean Doris, who lost their son, Gabriel, on May 4, 2014, joined forces with A Day with Chase Foundation to provide Doylestown Hospital with a CuddleCot, a special system that cools a crib to give families time to spend with their deceased baby.

"We wanted to do this to help make such a tragic loss a little easier for families," said Kris, a nurse anesthetist who has worked at Doylestown Hospital, her "second home," for 17 years.

The Doris family and friends gathered together for a special ceremony this May 4th – Gabriel's birthday – at Doylestown Hospital to present the CuddleCot in his memory.

With the help of family, friends and community, the Doris' raised $1,500 to purchase the CuddleCot, while A Day with Chase Foundation contributed the remaining $1,500.

Kristin and Chris Blouch started the foundation after their son Chase was stillborn at 5 months in 2015. They longed to spend more time with their son the day he was born. The foundation raises funds to purchase CuddleCots for hospitals and to provide other gifts of comfort such as Making Memories boxes designed to "help create lasting memories during the short time families have with their child."

The Blouches joined the Doris family and friends on May 4th to present the CuddleCot to Doylestown Hospital.

"We hope this will help ease the heartbreak of families who go through this," said Chris.

The CuddleCot is manufactured in England and is currently available at most hospitals in Europe. A growing number of hospitals in the U.S. are using the system, and A Day with Chase Foundation has gifted the device to several area hospitals. The Foundation has also made other donations to hospitals in Florida and Texas.

When Kris Doris learned about the foundation, she was "overjoyed. It seemed meant to be."

The project of raising funds to purchase a CuddleCot in Gabriel's memory for Doylestown "gave me a drive," she added. "I told Kristin, ‘You have given my son life'."

Gabriel was "born sleeping" at 24 weeks weighing 1 pound and stretching 11.5 inches long.

"We kept him in our arms and in our parents' arms for many hours, singing, cuddling and drinking every detail of him in," Kris told those gathered for the ceremony, including several nurses from the VIA Maternity Center. "The entire staff was empathetic…giving us the utmost privacy and all of the time we needed before having to hand him over…forever."

A CuddleCot would have given them more time. More time to keep their precious baby with them to begin the grieving process and make memories of their short time together. Every minute counts for the families of babies born still.

The CuddleCot cooling pad is placed in a crib or Moses basket. It includes a specially insulated hose that courses cooled water through the cushion.

"I want to thank everyone from Doylestown Hospital and the community who gave donations," said Kris. "The community came together. This reminds me that intrinsic happiness comes from helping people."

Following the family's loss, Kris attended the Perinatal Loss support group at Doylestown Hospital. "We shared stories and I ended up not feeling so alone," said Kris.

"The group is open to any family member going through any infant loss at any point," says Barb Kirkner, Doylestown Hospital's Infant Loss/Bereavement Counselor who leads the group. "Just sharing your thoughts and memories of your baby with others who have also lost an infant helps tremendously. You don't feel so alone," said Barb.

Each grieving family is different, noted Barb. The CuddleCot helps them remain with their child as long as they wish.

"Any memories you have from that day are so important going forward," Barb said.

The memory of Gabriel lives on in the Doris family. Kris and Sean have four other children who were all born at Doylestown Hospital: Sean, 8; Ashlyn, 6; Ella, 4, and Brynn, 18 months. Gabriel is buried in a cemetery not far from their home.

"We walk to the grave once a week," said Kris. "He is definitely part of our life. He is part of our family. He's just in heaven."

About the VIA Maternity Center

Doylestown Health’s VIA Maternity Center is rated among the best in the region for maternity care with services available for every stage of pregnancy through the birth experience. The VIA Maternity Center features a 32-bed maternity unit that includes 9 labor, delivery & recovery rooms, 22 private post-partum rooms, and a Level II NICU staffed by CHOP neonatologists.

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