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Student makes blankets for babies

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
Taylor Hartsell has always known she was interested in going into nursing. After graduating last year from South Rowan High School, Hartsell chose Rowan-Cabarrus Community College for its programs in the medical field.
“When I first started, I wanted to be a neonatal nurse, but I love kids too much,” said Hartsell from her home on Monday. After finding out that sometimes the babies die, Hartsell changed her mind. ”There’s no way I would have been able to do that. I changed majors really quickly.”
That’s when she decided to study radiology. At the same time, she was working towards her Gold Award from the Girl Scouts — the equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle — and started making blankets to cover the incubators in the neonatal unit at Levine Children’s Hospital.
She chose the hospital because of its proximity to her home and the fact that her aunt works in the neonatal unit there.
“I asked her if there was anything they needed in the hospital,” said Hartsell. That’s when the blankets were suggested.
It was only after starting the incubator blankets that Hartsell discovered nurses at the hospital create molds of the hands and feet of babies who don’t survive. Those molds were placed inside washcloths and given to the parents of the babies.
“When I first started, we toured the hospital and went through all the nurseries,” said Hartsell. “They showed us this packet. It had the wristband of a child that didn’t make it. They made a mold of their hands and feet. They put their hand or foot inside the mold and all they had was a washcloth to wrap it up. …
“That’s how they gave them,” Hartsell said in amazement. The molds are quite fragile and Hartsell knew that those little molds should be given to the parents in something sturdier.
That’s when she decided in addition to the blankets, she’d create keepsake pockets for the hospital. Hartsell created 50 of the pockets and 100 neonatal incubator blankets — part to go over the baby inside the incubator and part to go over the top of the entire incubator unit to keep the babies from becoming over stimulated, which can be bad for them.
“The pocket is thick enough, the molds won’t get crushed,” said Hartsell. Each pocket is 5-by-5 inches and has a flap to hold the molds inside. Hartsell made them in different colors — blue gingham for boys, purple and pink for girls. The blue ones are adorned with blue safety pins and bows, and the girl’s purple and pink ones have fabric and button flowers.
The pockets are a keepsake for the parents of babies that don’t make it.
Hartsell said the entire project was called Blankets for Hope because she wanted to deliver a bit of hope to the neonatal unit at the hospital.
While she made more blankets, Hartsell said the pockets were more meaningful for her.
“Before we ever did them, (the molds) were getting wrapped in a wash cloth,” said Hartsell. “We made something that is sturdier and stronger to hold them so they wouldn’t break.”
The blankets will stay at the hospital to be used over and over in the neonatal unit, but the pockets will go home with the parents of children who pass away. Hartsell said the hospital works hard to make sure babies make it, and that’s why she did more blankets than pockets — they won’t run out anytime soon.
“I haven’t thought about it, but (when they run out) I’ll probably end up making more,” she said.
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-797-4248.

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