My runner-up dream job is to snuggle infants at a hospital. (Second only to attending yoga teacher trainings full-time.) So I might have squealed a little when coming across a sweet story about a couple of volunteer cuddlers at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For the last 16 years, husband-and-wife team Pat Rice and Claire Fitzgerald, both psychologists, have been assuring babies and relieving their parents by providing non-clinical, fully human support.
"The baby cuddler program has tremendous value," said neonatologist David Stevenson, MD, director of the hospital's Johnson Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Services. Parents with hospitalized infants must sometimes be away from the bedside, and physicians and nurses are focused on their patients' essential medical needs, which sometimes limits their time to attend to more personal needs, said Stevenson, who also is the Harold K. Faber Professor of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine.
"The cuddlers are volunteers who address the personal needs of another small human being, holding and talking to them when their parents can't be present," he said. "The cuddlers become a part of the health-care team."
Rice and Fitzgerald are returning the tender loving care once provided to them and their son, who was treated at what was then called Stanford Children's Hospital. He has since grown up and fathered three children of his own.
Previously: “I opened the doors:” A look back at two special babies and Neonatologist celebrates 50 years of preemie care
Photo of Pat Rice and Claire Fitzgerald by Norbert von der Groben