'A sense of normalcy': Former preemie donates infant clothes to Aurora hospital

 
 
Updated 3/31/2018 12:13 PM
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  • Olivia Bailey-Powell, 11, holds some baby clothing she and members of her church donated Friday to the neonatal intensive care unit at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora.

      Olivia Bailey-Powell, 11, holds some baby clothing she and members of her church donated Friday to the neonatal intensive care unit at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Olivia Bailey-Powell, 11, gets a hug from nurse Karen Werrbach as she brings in some baby hats Friday to Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora on Friday.

      Olivia Bailey-Powell, 11, gets a hug from nurse Karen Werrbach as she brings in some baby hats Friday to Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora on Friday. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Olivia Bailey-Powell, 11, along with her mother, Bonnie, and her godmother, Chris Martin, deliver donations of infant clothing, blankets, hats and stuffed animals Friday to the neonatal intensive care unit at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, where Olivia spent her first 47 days.

      Olivia Bailey-Powell, 11, along with her mother, Bonnie, and her godmother, Chris Martin, deliver donations of infant clothing, blankets, hats and stuffed animals Friday to the neonatal intensive care unit at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, where Olivia spent her first 47 days. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Olivia Bailey-Powell, 11, gathers Friday with nurse Karen Werrbach, her mother Bonnie, the Rev. Deborah Tinsley Taylor and her godmother Chris Martin to pray before they donate infant clothing and toys to the neonatal intensive care unit at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora.

      Olivia Bailey-Powell, 11, gathers Friday with nurse Karen Werrbach, her mother Bonnie, the Rev. Deborah Tinsley Taylor and her godmother Chris Martin to pray before they donate infant clothing and toys to the neonatal intensive care unit at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • A fresh supply of stuffed animals, hats and clothing for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit arrived Friday at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora from an Oswego 11-year-old who spent her first 47 days in the NICU.

      A fresh supply of stuffed animals, hats and clothing for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit arrived Friday at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora from an Oswego 11-year-old who spent her first 47 days in the NICU. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

By medical standards, Olivia Bailey-Powell was not ready for the world when she was born 11 years ago, weighing 1 pound 13 ounces.

She couldn't go home with her mother, Bonnie, right away, and spent the first 47 days of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora.

Somehow, Olivia learned that parents of preemies maybe aren't ready, either, when they give birth much earlier than expected.

"Most of the time, the parents don't know that this is going to happen, so they might not have the stuff they need," Olivia said Friday as she revisited the place where she lived her first six weeks. "So we have stuff for them."

Olivia, her mother, her godmother and her pastor brought donations of baby clothing, blankets, hats and toys to the NICU Friday for the second year in a row.

This year's haul included 72 tiny onesies, 36 baby pajama outfits, 21 blankets, 20 hats, 18 stuffed animals, two bibs and two winter suits. Much of the clothing was store-bought, but Olivia's mother made the hats, with a little help from her daughter, and a church member's sister made several stuffed octopus toys with tentacles meant to simulate the umbilical cord.

The Rev. Deborah Tinsley Taylor, pastor of Fourth Street United Methodist Church in Aurora, said the congregation donated many of the baby outfits during worship earlier this year, when the church turned January into "Pajamuary" and wore relaxing sleepwear to pray.

"This is always so much fun," Tinsley-Taylor said about the church's third annual "Pajamuary." "This year we were able to get more preemie stuff."

When babies have a long stay in the NICU, they don't wear mini hospital gowns. Nurses and doctors, who get to know the babies and their families, dress each infant in fresh outfits and sleepwear as needed, even trying to match patterns to the early signs of each preemie's personality, said Louise Fazio, NICU manager.

"When it's bath night, everyone is in the clothes closet, looking for things to dress the babies in," Fazio said. "This makes a huge difference."

Donated clothes help keep the closet stocked and fresh, which comforts moms and dads as they visit their tiny newborns.

"Seeing their baby clean and neat makes a big difference for parents," Fazio said. "It gives the parents more of a sense of normalcy."

In her second year delivering donations back to the site of her early days, Olivia, now a sixth-grader at Traughber Middle School in Oswego, reflected on the little ones whose lives are starting out like hers. Now healthy since catching up to her peers size-wise at age 3, Olivia said she thinks her donations will be a comfort to babies and their parents.

"I feel like they would be thankful," she said, "that I did that for them."

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