MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Touch can be critical for a hospitals’ tiniest patients, but struggling newborns don’t always have family there to hold them.
That’s where a special volunteer known as “Father Goose” steps in.
Val Gow retired several years ago and spends a lot of his free time now volunteering at the NICU at Fairview Ridges hospital in Burnsville. Whenever the NICU nurses call, Gow drops everything to come in and spend time with the newborns who do not have anyone there to hold them.
“They get to feel someone holding them. They get to hear my voice,” Gow said.
“This is where it matters the most. Babies neuro-developmentally need that connection, need somebody to talk to all the time, need the holding, need the eye contact,” said Fairview Ridges neonatal nurse practitioner Nada Maalouli.
She said it is not uncommon for babies to be left alone in the NICU.
“Definitely over the years I’ve seen it more and more,” Maalouli said.
Sometimes families live far away, have to go back to work or tend to their other children.
“There’s addiction or mental illness or they’re unable to even take care of themselves,” Maalouli said.
Whatever the reason, when nurses are busy and families are far away, Gow is there to keep them company.
“I tell them about my family, tell them about what life’s going to be like,” Gow said.
He also does it to experience something that he did not get to do with the 10 children he and his wife adopted.
“They came into the world in chaos, so some of the babies I hold come into the world also in chaos, so I get to see what it was like for them,” Gow said.
“It’s a healing process for them, too, for whatever reason they are here,” Maalouli said.
Ask anyone here in the NICU about the healing work they do for these babies, and they’ll likely tell you the healing goes both ways.