How We Help
Supporting Hospitals & Families
Leah's Polar Hugs addresses the needs of new members of the HIE community in two ways: i) we broaden and improve access to the right medical equipment by helping hospital NICUs purchase the cooling equipment needed to treat babies born with HIE and ii) we help support families coping with an HIE birth through our Hugs & Hope care packages. Please read below to learn more about these initiatives.
Currently, there is only one treatment available for treating hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. This treatment is known as hypothermia therapy, or "cooling" therapy. This treatment reduces the newborn's brain and body temperature to a semi-hypothermic level of about 33-35 degrees Celsius for 72 hours before slowly being re-warmed. This process reduces brain activity and allows the brain to begin healing.
There are two ways that cooling treatment can be administered: using a cooling cap for selective brain cooling ("head cooling") or using a cooling blanket ("whole-body cooling"). Either option is effective; the choice to use one over the other depends on what equipment a particular NICU has. Both use multiple ancillary machines to monitor the newborn's seizure activity, body temperature, and other vital signs.
A cooling cap is a flexible cap that runs cold fluid through channels in the cap. This cold liquid draws heat from the newborns body, reducing the temperature of the brain.
The newborn is placed on a cooling blanket. The cooling blanket circulates cold fluid to reduce the temperature of the newborn's entire body.
Family Support - Hugs & Hope Care Packages
From the first hours after birth to finally getting to bring your child home, the hours spent in the NICU can be very trying for HIE parents. As a parent, you feel helpless while you wait for the cooling process to run its course and hope that nothing triggers a seizure. Doctors prepare you for the worst while leaving the possibility open for something better. Medical staff can be incredibly helpful in understanding what’s going on with your child, but they are limited in helping with what may be going on with you as a parent in this moment. Our care packages are designed with this in mind, drawing from our own experience as HIE parents as well as others’. Below is the current working list of items we would like to include with an explanation of our rationale.
Polar bear plush toy & WubbaNub – Staying in the NICU 24/7 is too much to ask of any parent. We brought a small stuffed animal in to watch over Leah while we weren’t there and to be her first personal comfort toy. When we can order in large enough quantities, we plan on making a customized bear that includes the blanket and cap, similar to the one in our logo. We hope this will add a relatable experience for the family as well as the child.
Swaddles – Once an HIE baby is stable enough, they’re able to be swaddled like other newborns. This is another big milestone for HIE families. We are currently working on partnering with a swaddle company to make custom made swaddles for our HIE families.
Milestone board – HIE babies hit new, small milestones every day in the NICU and we want to help parents easily commemorate these as well as future accomplishments. We’re working with our friends at Time Snap Shop to include customized milestone boards in our care packages.
Noodle & Boo baby shampoo & lotion – The adhesive used in the electrodes to hook babies up to the monitoring machines is messy to remove from a newborn’s delicate head, so their first bath is a big deal! Most new parents get to give their baby’s first bath right away, but HIE babies must wait until after the cooling process and an MRI, which can be a week or more. We want the experience of a baby’s first bath to be special and comforting for the new parents and baby. Noodle & Boo is what we used in the NICU; it is perfect for delicate newborn’s needs and provides just the right scent and comfort for an HIE baby’s first bath.
Honest Company Hand Sanitizer - Keeping clean is very important when being around a medically vulnerable newborn. We loved the scents of the Honest Company hand sanitizer spray and it was much gentler that the standard hospital hand sanitizer.
Adaptive clothing – Some HIE births are accompanied by brachial plexus injuries. Button-up shirts are helpful for these situations because they avoid anything having to go over the baby’s head.
Children’s book – When an HIE baby is being cooled, and for a number of days after, parents are not allowed to touch the child because of the risk that the sensory experience may trigger a seizure. Even when contact is allowed, it is limited and minimal while the child stabilizes. A parent can feel helpless in these moments given the well-recognized benefit of human touch for a newborn. Hearing your voice is the next best way to connect with your baby during this time, and we want parents to have a book ready and waiting for them. In the future, we plan to develop our own book that tells a story of strength and hope uniquely related to the HIE experience.
Support literature – Hospital staff have much in the way in medical knowledge to dispense, but social and emotional support for the unique HIE experience is outside of their scope. In addition to a note from Leah’s Polar Hugs, we will include information on HIE support groups and other resources so parents will know where to look for the support and understanding only another HIE parent can provide.
Mugs – Days at the NICU can be long and parents can be short on sleep. We hope that branded Leah’s Polar Hugs mugs will help parents know that someone out there understands what they are going through and is thinking of them while they sip on their coffee, tea, or whatever gets them through on a tough day in the NICU.
With your help we can turn these packages from an idea into a reality for the families that need them!