Online Support for Families of Newborns in Intensive Care Providing Help During Pandemic

The group 'Hand to Hold' has spent years helping NICU families but now for the first time, they are offering virtual services.

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The coronavirus pandemic can be especially hard for new mothers separated from their babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Certain restrictions may keep them from their babies and that can have a big impact on their mental health.

When Baby Leo was born at in Dallas on April 9, the unexpected happened.

The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and it resulted in a three-week stay in the NICU.

Mom Carolanne Treadwell said it created "the most stress that you can imagine."

Treadwell says she was discharged earlier than expected because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Visiting Leo came with numerous protocols and restrictions like going alone without her husband and wearing face-masks.

At one point, she said she was concerned she'd be prohibited from visiting at all.

"It was not really something that anybody would want to go through just to see your sick baby that's for sure," said Treadwell.

Step in the organization Hand To Hold, an Austin based non-profit that offers support groups for current and former NICU families.

For the first time, the group has taken its services online.

"If you can imagine all the additional stressors of COVID, from financial stressors and worry about getting the virus and then you amplify that by having a small baby that's medically fragile in the NICU," said founder Kelli Kelley.

Kelley says the group's services lead to better mental health outcomes for moms.

They operate in several hospitals, but now they're virtual and are able to help NICU families all over the country.

It's help Treadwell says is priceless as she and Baby Leo now recuperate at home, just in time for Mother's Day.

The services are free to families, thanks to a sponsorship from Dallas-headquartered Kimberly-Clark Corporation and its 'Huggies' brand.

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