Allie Spillyards

Flower Mound Mom Starts NICU Library to Honor Daughter's Memory, Help Other Preemies

There was a special delivery at Medical City Lewisville this week when a NICU mom returned with a gift she hopes will carry on her daughter’s memory.

It’s been almost two years exactly since Emily Akins was admitted to the hospital in labor with her first child.

“She was born on December 27th. She was 23 weeks and three days, so she was really itty bitty,” said Akins.

Akins and her husband spent hours by her side in the NICU.

“The nurses encouraged us to speak to her to let her hear our voice. We would tell her we loved her and kind of what was going on, but it was kind of hard to have an organic conversation when she was in such a dire situation,” said Akins.

That’s when the couple decided to read, sharing Akins’s Harry Potter novel with her daughter to get them through all of the ups and downs of their NICU stay.

“They were saying it would be a roller coaster ride. But the first week she was just getting off of oxygen, getting better, and then everything just came crashing down really quickly,” said Akins.

At just 11 days old, Naomi passed away in her parents’ arms.

Since then, Akins has done whatever she can to keep Naomi’s memory alive. Her family, which now includes a little brother for Naomi, has planted a tree in her memory and delivered baked goods to first responders. Still, Akins wanted to do more.

“When you lose a child, especially a baby, there’s this innate need to show that they existed,” said Akins.

That’s when she thought about the short time her family had together made better with a book. When she reached out to the NICU nurses at Medical City Lewisville, she learned a book drive project was already underway.

“It’s kind of a passion project for me,” said nurse Caila Muhlbauer.

Muhlbauer proposed a book program when she joined the hospital in February. Once a preemie herself, she knew the benefits of reading first hand.

“A lot of very low birth weight babies leave the NICU with some kind of language developmental delay, and one of the ways I overcame that was reading,” said Muhlbauer.

Science has since shown it does even more good when it happens during a baby’s earliest days.

"Their neurological development is occurring while they're in here and all of the silence kind of delays their language, their memory, all of those skills they're not at home and they're not being spoken to the way they would be at home,” said Muhlbauer.

That’s why the hospital was more than willing to help Akins with getting her own drive started. So far, she’s collected 145 books thanks to the community.

“It’s humbling and special to know that our community cares about us and cares about Naomi and cares about these babies,” said Akins.

Because the NICU must remain germ free, books cannot be shared among families. That's why the nurses and Akins continue to collect books to ensure everyone can recieve enough to get them through their NICU stay. If you want to help out, click here.

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