Pueblo hospital seeking volunteers to cuddle opioid-addicted babies

Posted at 3:46 PM, May 05, 2017

PUEBLO, Colo. – If you have a knack for cuddling infants and you’re available at the drop of a hat, staff at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo could use your help.

The hospital is recruiting volunteers to help soothe infants that are born addicted to heroin and other opioids.

Research published late last year found that rates of infant opioid withdrawal – known as neonatal abstinence syndrome – have increased fivefold nationwide in the last 10 years. The problem is especially bad in rural counties, where hospitals don’t have the staff to take care of so many drug-addicted babies.

At St. Mary-Corwin, the hospital sometimes has up to six babies at a time going through withdrawal, nurse Paulette Mapes told the Pueblo Chieftain.

“It’s rare that we do not have at least one baby in our nursery withdrawing from heroin, Mapes said. “They have a hard time. They have a hard time even when they’re being cuddled and held.”

Babies going through opioid withdrawal are typically extra fussy and distressed, with symptoms like excessive crying, trembling, rapid breathing, diarrhea, vomiting and trouble eating. Infants with severe symptoms usually require medication but treatment also includes calming techniques like swaddling and rocking the baby in a dark, quiet environment.

That’s where volunteers come in. The hospital is hoping to recruit enough volunteers that someone will be available around the clock and at a moment’s notice.

“Our hope is to have a 24/7, 365 availability (of on-call volunteers) so if this baby’s having a rough time, we can have someone who can love on the baby,” Mapes told the Chieftain.

Volunteer Services Manager Sherri Lombard said the hospital has heard from thousands of people around the state interested in volunteering so they're in a bit of a holding pattern right now while they work on screening all of those applicants, but they are always in need of volunteer help, both at St. Mary-Corwin and at its sister facilities.

Lombard said it can be especially difficult to find people who are available in the evening and overnight hours, so she encourages those who don't mind late-night calls to apply.

Anyone who’s interested in being a volunteer should contact St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center at 719-557-5685 or stop by the hospital to pick up an application.

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