Lazaro Family Donates Cot to ThedaCare Hospital in Honor of Children
Tabitha and Salvatore Lazaro have experienced one of the most painful things that can happen to a family, the loss of a baby. The Fond du Lac couple has displayed unwavering strength as two of their children, Brooklyn and Ethan, have come into this world stillborn due to the rare chromosomal disorder Trisomy 6.
“Initially for us, the losses were too much,” explained Sal. “Throughout the sadness, we leaned on our strong faith which has pushed us to find a greater purpose. In our hearts, we knew that we were meant to turn these experiences into a way to help others going through a similar loss.”
In 2017, at 33 weeks pregnant, Tabitha gave birth to their daughter, Brooklyn, at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah. When Brooklyn was born, the family began to grieve and say goodbye. What they needed was more time.
“We tried our best to be in the moment and present, making her feel loved even though her spirit had already moved on,” he said. “We had Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep take photos of her, and capture raw, and beautiful moments between us, our family and Brooklyn. We wanted to take in those minutes to remember everything about her and our journey, and remember that she would always be our daughter. All of these moments brought us closure, and left us with no regrets in how we honored her.”
Tabitha said she knew it would be the first and last time she’d get to hold her little girl. Throughout many tearful goodbyes from parents and other family members, the Lazaros worried about the baby’s quality.
“We had to stay present, and take in everything during that special, but brief time, because it was our last chance with her,” said Sal. “We put aside our sadness, and focused on the fact that she was at peace.”
Tabitha and Sal said their final goodbye to Brooklyn. Then, they began to process their grief, and work through healing. It was during that time that Tabitha learned about CuddleCots.
The CuddleCot cooling pad is placed in bassinet and is connected to a device that filters cold water through the mat at a consistent temperature. The CuddleCot helps preserve the quality of the stillborn infant. The extra time allows a baby to stay with their family, giving loved ones a longer opportunity, up to five days, instead of minutes or hours, to say goodbye.
“With Brooklyn, we did not have the CuddleCot, and we were essentially on a time clock with the integrity of her body and the natural process,” Sal explained. “We had to share precious moments with each other and other family members who wanted to meet her. The CuddleCot would have given us more time to process our loss.”
With their second child who was stillborn, Ethan, Sal explained it was different.
“With Ethan, it was unexpected and we were still in shock,” he said. “During his birth, the CuddleCot was available and allowed us time to process what had just happened, and helped us transition into the grieving process. That allowed us additional time to honor him as we did with Brooklyn.”
Kimberly Vanevenhoven, RN Clinical Manager – Medical Surgical, ICU, Family Birth Care at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca, explained the CuddleCot system can help families create an important bond with their baby and help process their loss.
“The CuddleCot provides families and clinicians the gift of time,” said Vanevenhoven. “For families: the time to say goodbye, time to be together as a family and time to begin healing. For clinicians: the time to provide emotional support to the family and time to foster a higher degree of dignity when caring for a stillborn infant.”
Understanding what more time would have meant to them, the Lazaros and their family decided to use their children’s stories to help other families experiencing a loss. They generously donated a CuddleCot to ThedaCare Foundation-Neenah on the anniversary of Brooklyn’s birth, March 20, 2018.
Since that first donation, their family has donated four CuddleCots to area hospitals, including the most recent one on March 21, 2022 to ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca.
The CuddleCots from the Lazaros include a small engraved sign, allowing nurses to share their family’s story with other grieving parents.
“Sal and Tabitha have endured something most of us cannot begin to imagine,” said Vanevenhoven. “We are forever grateful for their strength to share their story and generosity as other families may now have the gift of time.”
Vanevenhoven said that ThedaCare plans to share the CuddleCot with other rural ThedaCare hospitals in Berlin and Shawano. Team members at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca recently thanked the family during a small ceremony.
As Tabitha and Sal continue to grieve for their children, they also hope their losses will allow other families to create special memories that will last a lifetime.
“Whether it is sudden, or a genetic condition, for so many parents, it is not the story they expected, but it is their baby’s story,” said Sal. “The CuddleCot gives those families an option to spend time with their baby or even begin to process their experience. The CuddleCot allows time to move a little slower for these families, letting them cherish every second.”
The ThedaCare Family of Foundations works with families like the Lazaros to give back and help enhance the patient experience. To learn more about the ThedaCare Family of Foundations and the impact of donor support, or make a donation, please visit thedacare.org/Foundations or email Foundations@thedacare.org.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.