Touching Lives, Big and Small

Neonatal TouchTen tiny fingers. Ten tiny toes. Families in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) ache to touch and hold their sons and daughters.

At Altru, our goal is for parents to go home with knowledge and confidence to handle their babies with tender loving care.

Jodie Storhaug, an occupational therapist specialized in neonatal touch and massage, works closely with babies, parents and Altru staff to ensure positive touch is incorporated into daily care. “The basic massage principles are actually quite simple,” she said. “Move slowly, watch for cues and respect the baby.”

Family Experience
Inspired by a college professor passionate about pediatrics, Jodie cared for her first newborn in 1983. Nearly 25 years ago, in 1989, she became certified in infant massage instruction. Since, she has even applied it to her own daughters.

“I would massage my daughter’s hand during church sermons to keep her quiet,” she explained. “It was our special bond. Even today at age 23, she offers me her hand during the service.”

Jodie continues to teach infant massage classes to expecting parents through Altru’s preparing for childbirth classes.

Unique Certification
In September of 2013, Jodie became the first occupational therapist in the tri-state area certified in neonatal touch and massage therapy.

The certification process started with a minimum of 1,000 hours in a NICU, followed by 15 hours of online education from experts across the country with passing scores for each module. Once completed, Jodie attended two days of hands-on training and passed a final exam.

Jodie is excited to share her enhanced skills to further the expertise of Altru therapists and nurses. Together, they can have a greater impact on the long term outcomes and facilitate bonding and nurturing opportunities for parents.

Premature babies are incredibly vulnerable. The brain is growing faster than ever. Beyond enhanced emotional bonding, early touch can positively impact anatomy and muscles, breathing patterns and brain activity in babies. “From blood draws to nose tubes, task-oriented touch in the NICU is necessary,” explains Jodie. “We try to balance it with nurturing touch.” Positive touch can reduce stress, keep babies calm, help them engage with their parents and promote good sleep.

“In the midst of medical experts, it’s important for parents to know they are the most important person in the baby’s life,” concluded Jodie. “We help them gain that confidence.”

Have you had or known a baby in Altru’s NICU? Please share your experience.

JodieJodie Storhaug has 26 years of experience as an occupational therapist. She has worked in various therapy settings with both children and adults, but has always been drawn to the neonatal intensive care unit. Jodie and her husband, Bruce, live in Grand Forks. They have two daughters and a new son-in-law. 

Physical Therapy Ultrasound Treatment Promotes Post-Delivery Relief

Mom and babyThe childbearing years are an exciting time. However, pregnancy and delivery may take a toll on a woman’s body. Physical therapists specializing in women’s health are trained to treat the aches and pains that accompany pregnancy, as well as bladder and bowel control issues, incontinence and pelvic pain. All of these may be a result of stress to the pelvic floor due to pregnancy, labor and delivery.

If you have had a previous vaginal delivery, you know that the sore and inflamed tissues of your pelvic floor post-delivery may make it painful to urinate, have a bowel movement, perform daily activities, or even stand and sit. Therapeutic ultrasound treatment relieves pain, decreases swelling and improves healing of the pelvic floor tissues, and is now available to mothers delivering at Altru’s Family Birthing Center in the days following a vaginal delivery.

How It Works
To perform the ultrasound treatment, specialized physical therapists apply the ultrasound for 7-8 minutes using a gel barrier sheet between your skin and the ultrasound tool in the privacy of your hospital room. This treatment has been highly effective in decreasing the pain and inflammation new mothers often experience in the pelvic floor area, and can actually hasten the healing process following a vaginal delivery.

Therapeutic ultrasound can be performed while you are still in the hospital after having your baby. It is also available on an outpatient basis after you are discharged from the hospital at Altru’s Outpatient Physical Therapy Department in Altru Rehabilitation Center.

Talk to your health care provider if you are interested in this treatment option. If you have questions regarding this treatment, please contact Angela at 701.780.2510 or Holly at 701.780.2517 at Altru’s Outpatient Physical Therapy Department.

Angela and Holly

Angela De La Cruz, PT, MPT and Holly Bommersbach, PT, MPT are physical therapists at Altru Health System who have extensive training and specialize in women’s health and pelvic floor issues.

Youth & Electronics: Do They Play Well Together?

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. In the past four decades, obesity rates in the United States have soared among all age groups. We have the power to change these trends. Guest blogger, Altru’s Dr. Grant Seeger explores how electronic devices impact today’s youth.

Youth and Electronics

As a father of four young children, I have personally witnessed how easily today’s youth use electronic devices. The United States is now overflowing with these devices in the form of mobile phones, tablets, large desktop touchscreens and video games. Tactile fine motor movements are becoming more important for email, texting, games and more.

Pros and Cons
Using these devices in the future will be essential in daily life. There are many benefits to using touchscreen electronic devices, including:

  • access to unlimited learning material,
  • positive social interactions to foster community,
  • efficient communication tools and
  • development of fine motor skills.

However, there are many pitfalls that could result in detrimental experiences. These include:

  • unlimited access to harmful material (if parental controls are not used),
  • social interactions gone bad (violence, privacy issues),
  • social isolation,
  • limited physical activity contributing to weight gain, muscle loss, poor metabolism and diabetes,
  • questionable detriment to depth perception development and
  • lack of parental contact.

Lack of parental contact can be the worst detriment of all. Electronic devices have their place in keeping children occupied in order to calm the environment and diffuse aggression. However, they can be overused. There is a fine line between occasional and excessive use that leads to the detriments listed above. 

Human Interaction > Electronic Interaction
A recent article in the Journal of Nutrition, Education, and Behavior by Ray & colleagues (2013) finds that a higher number of parenting practices was associated with more favorable health behaviors. Stronger associations between parenting practices and nutrient-dense (healthy) food intake and meal frequency were found when children perceived high parental warmth/responsiveness. Stronger associations between parenting practices and energy-rich (unhealthy) food intake and screen time were found when children perceived low parental warmth/responsiveness.1 In sum, children that had more screen time also had worse eating habits and less perceived parental responsiveness. Children need human parental interaction, not electronic interaction.

Interaction

Interestingly, children who watched over two hours of television per day had increased odds of low communication scores.2 Whereas child-directed media was associated with low language scores, adult-directed media was not.2 The findings by Duch & colleagues (2013) support the harmful impact of screen media in toddler’s language development.

Sit Less, Play More
Reducing sedentary time should be a priority. Sedentary time, usually in front of a television, has been associated with higher socioeconomic status.3 Decreased sedentary time was linked to families with more siblings, family visits to parks and family participation in sports.3

Data from Atkin & colleagues (2013) show that the greater amount of time spent with the mother and more restrictions on female children from playing outside significantly increases sedentary time.3 Researchers suggest increasing participation in sports and decreasing restrictions on young girls playing outside in order to increase physical activity and lower body mass index.

Biking

My personal recommendation is to never let children take a touchscreen device, such as an iPad, into their room alone. Keep the screen visible and monitor their activity.

Local Movement
The Grand Forks community has made recent efforts to improve family access to athletic and other recreational activities. Choice Health & Fitness has been a great addition to the community. The challenge is making use of these facilities on a routine basis and promoting family health by decreasing electronic screen time.

Seeger Family

Photography credit goes to Erika Leitch Photography. erikaleitch.com

Grant R. Seeger, MD, MHA is a radiation oncologist at Altru Health System. He and his wife, Rebekah, have four young children.     

References
1. Ray C, Kalland M, Lehto R, & Roos E. (2013). Does Parental Warmth and Responsiveness Moderate the Associations between Parenting Practices and Children’s Health-related Behaviors? J Nutr Educ Behav. In Press, 2013.

2. Duch H, Fisher EM, Ensari I, Font M, Harrington A, Taromino C, Yip J, Rodriguez C. (2013). Association of Screen Time Use and Language Development in Hispanic Toddlers: A Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Study. Clin Pediatr (Phila). Jul 1. In Press, 2013.

3. Atkin AJ, Corder K, Ekelund U, Wijndaele K, Griffin SJ, & van Sluijs EM. (2013). Determinants of Change in Children’s Sedentary Time.  PLoS One. Jun 28;8(6):e67627. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067627. Print 2013.

Moms deserve a retreat.

Do you know a rockstar mom? Someone who gives selflessly and loves endlessly?

Maybe she’s a sister, a cousin, a best friend, an aunt or even your own mother or daughter. She deserves a retreat, a time to focus on herself. Altru’s Modern Mom, the Center for Prevention and Genetics and Truyu Aesthetic Center present the Modern Mom Retreat at Choice Health & Fitness.

Retreat Social

This special time just for moms will include a group Pilates session followed by relaxing Truyu at Choice spa services (options include massage, facial or nail services). Upon departure, the moms will be provided with a healthy dinner to bring home for the whole family, prepared by Altru’s food services, Sodexo.

How To
Know of a special mom in your life? Nominate her to win. Simply visit Modern Mom’s Facebook page and post directly on our wall, telling us why she’s deserving of this gift. We will accept your nominations through September 11 and announce winners shortly thereafter.

Contest Rules
One nomination per person. Limited space available. Nominations close at midnight, September 11, 2013. Self-nominations will not be considered. Contest will be judged by Altru’s Corporate Development staff.

Remembering Cherished Children

Do you have a son or daughter you would like to remember at a Memorial Service? Perhaps you know a relative or friend who lost a child?

Wings of Hope, the Infant and Child Bereavement program at Altru Health System, is holding the Cherished Children Memorial Service 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 13. Taking place outside in front of Altru Hospital, this event is in memory of all children who have died. Balloons will be available for decorating, and they will be released at the end of the service.

Memory Wall
In 2000, a memory wall was dedicated to all children who have died. The wall resides in the park east of the hospital and south of the flag. Various families have chosen to have their child’s name engraved on this wall.

Angel Wall

The wall is located near the Christmas Box Angel, dedicated in August of 2010 to all children who have died, including babies who died before or shortly after birth. The statue was introduced to the world in the book The Christmas Box, a worldwide bestseller and hit television movie by author Richard Paul Evans. In the book, a woman mourns the loss of her child at the base of an angel monument. Even though the story is fiction, the angel monument once existed in Salt Lake City cemetery.

Angel History
The new angel statue was commissioned by Evans in response to reports that grieving parents were seeking out the angel as a place to grieve and heal. It was dedicated in December of 1994 in Salt Lake City. The angel statue in Grand Forks was the 11th to be dedicated. Now, there are over 100 angel statues throughout the world.

Angel

Offering Hope, Year After Year
If you look closely, you can find the word “hope” on the angel’s right wing. On December 6 every year, a candlelight ceremony is held in the lobby of Altru Hospital for all infants and young children who have died. The ceremony includes walking out to the angel, where families can place a white flower at the base. (This is explained in  Richard Evan’s book.) Families are invited to place an ornament, with their child’s name on it, on a large Christmas tree in the hospital lobby.

Candlelight Ceremony

Learn more about the Infant Bereavement Program at Altru in this blog post: Celebrating Life… and Death. For more information about the program or the August 13 Memorial Service, please call 701.780.5250.

Toni_blogAltru’s Infant Bereavement Coordinator, Chaplain Toni Betting has worked at Altru for 19 years. She was born and raised in Michigan, N.D. and raised her family in Ellendale, N.D. Toni enrolled in college at the University of Mary in Bismarck at the age of 50, after the last of her nine living children graduated from high school. She graduated with a major in pastoral ministries and a minor in addiction counseling.  She was hired as a chaplain here in 1994 and on January 1, 2013, took the position of full time Infant Bereavement Coordinator. Toni has 28 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. Her favorite pastimes include gardening and traveling, mostly to see her family.

Pregnant? Go Fish

SalmonBetween the changing body, wacky hormones and mommy brain, being pregnant is stressful enough. Pregnancy nutrition is important, but we don’t want it to be confusing. Fresh fruits and veggies are obvious picks. Seafood, on the other hand, is a trickier subject.

Is it okay to eat seafood when you’re growing a babe? Guest blogger, Dr. Nicholas Ralston, helps us answer this age-old question. 

Ocean fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin E and iodine. For this reason, the FDA recommends pregnant women eat up to 12 ounces of low-mercury seafood per week, an amount equal to two portions that are about the size of a woman’s palm.

Studies have found that children whose mothers ate more ocean fish did better on intelligence tests and have greater social and scholastic aptitudes than children whose mothers ate less than two fish meals per week. Children whose mothers ate no fish did the poorest.

What about the mercury?
Current warnings regarding mercury risks arose after negative effects reported in a Faroe Islands study. The Faroe Islands lie between Iceland and Scotland. Because their mercury exposures are among the highest worldwide, this population was one of the first studied. However, only a fraction of their mercury exposure comes from eating fish. The majority of their mercury exposure comes from eating pilot whale meat.

Pilot whales are slightly smaller than their killer whale cousins. Mercury exposures from pilot whales and large sharks can be harmful, but beneficial effects are observed in children whose mothers eat more commonly consumed ocean fish. The difference depends on how much mercury is in relation to the amount of selenium.

Selenium’s role in preventing mercury toxicity was first shown in 1967 and has been under continual study since. In fact, to understand any aspect of the seafood mercury issue, you must first understand selenium’s role in the body and the interactions between mercury and selenium.

What is selenium?
Selenium is an essential trace element that we need in our diets for numerous processes, including brain development and protection from oxidative damage. A pregnant mother needs to supply selenium to her baby in order to meet the needs of her child’s growing brain.

Under normal conditions, selenium is effectively delivered from the mother to her baby. However, high mercury exposure directly interferes with this process. We now know the way mercury causes harm is by binding selenium and preventing it from performing its necessary functions. 

Smart Kid

The Basic Chemistry
Since one atom of mercury binds one atom of selenium, it is important to eat foods that contain more selenium than mercury. Virtually all foods (including almost all seafoods) contain much more selenium than mercury. The only seafoods that contain significantly more mercury are pilot whale and shark meats. (These are the mercury-containing foods that were the basis for the fish consumption advisories.)

In the Faroes study, the more ocean fish that mothers ate during pregnancy, the better protected their children were from the bad effects of eating whale meat. This is because ocean fish are rich in selenium.

So, our best advice? Eat up to two 6 ounce servings of low-mercury fish per week. You’ll be providing essential nutrients for yourself and your baby, and possibly boosting your baby’s cognitive development. In other words, go fish.

What is your favorite fish dish? Let us know.

More Information
Nutrition During Pregnancy
Pregnancy and Fish: What’s Safe to Eat?
Food Safety for Moms-To-Be
Fish, Mercury, and Nutrition: The Net Effects

Dr. RalstonDr. Nicholas Ralston worked in nutrition research for many years and was trained in biomedical research at the Mayo Graduate School, Rochester, Minn. For the past 12 years, he has led dozens of research studies of mercuryselenium interactions that have been primarily funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Music Therapy at Altru

Kid-HeadphonesWhether we admit it’s therapy or not, we all use music to enhance our lives. Music has the power to deliver a rush of emotion, boost energy, ignite memories, escape for a moment or add melody to the mundane. It can bring life to our days and calm to our nights.

Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” evokes recollections of wedding dances. Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” sparks waves of national pride. Werner Thomas’ “Chicken Dance” gets arms flapping and kids (and adults) grinning. Music brings us together. Music rocks and rolls our souls, young and old alike. 

The Science of Music
The use of music to treat mental and physical illness has been documented throughout history since the Middle Ages. Music influences human behavior by affecting the brain and other bodily structures in ways that are observable, identifiable, measurable and predictable. Music can influence mood, behavior, speech, social interaction and more. Music has a place health care.

How the Music Started
From October 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013, Altru participated in a grant program funded by the University of North Dakota Faculty Research Seed Grant Committee, the UND Department of Music, Dean’s Office of the College of Arts and Sciences and the UND Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

MeganneMaskoMeganne Masko (@DrMomMTBC), board-certified and licensed music therapist and assistant professor of music therapy at UND, explained, “The grant allowed me to hire three board-certified and licensed music therapists to work approximately 18 hours per week in Altru Cancer Center, Altru’s Pediatric Hospital, Pediatric Rehabilitation, Palliative Care, Altru’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Behavioral Health.”

More than 500 patients received music therapy services over 900 different sessions throughout the grant period. “The therapists collaborated with physicians, nurses, Altru’s child life specialist and patients,” said Meganne. “Music helped with pain relief, anxiety reduction, relaxation, sensory stimulation, socialization and coping.”

Musical-BabiesIn addition to the three music therapists, several UND music therapy students completed approximately 200 hours of clinic training at Altru during the grant period. (UND has provided complimentary music therapy services to Altru for the past several years through the music therapy practicum class, and will continue to do so this fall.) 

A Passion for Making and Sharing Music
“I became a board-certified and licensed music therapist after being an opera singer and music educator,” said Meganne. “I worked with many students who had special needs, but, at the time, I was not prepared to work with them.” After earning her master’s from the University of Iowa, Meganne is currently a Ph.D. candidate specializing in hospice and palliative care.

Lysa Wright, UND graduate and music therapist, became interested in music therapy in high school. “It was a great collaboration of something I’ve always loved and had a passion for, music, and being involved in a helping profession,” she said. Lysa works for Music Therapy in Motion, a music therapy business serving individuals in the Greater Grand Forks and Fargo communities.

See Lysa working with a pediatric patient at Altru:

Variety of Genres
Music therapy is applied in many different settings outside the health system. For instance, Camp Good Mourning, a grief camp for children and teens taking place at Park River Bible Camp this weekend, incorporates music into its therapeutic activities. For new parents, Introduction to Musical Parenting provides ideas for using music to engage, calm and communicate with infants.

How does music impact your life? Can you think of a specific song that brings you back in time or changes your mood instantly? Share it with us.

Kids, Cars and Summer Heat

CarseatAs the thermometer reaches temperatures that make us swelter in the sun, we need to be extra vigilant about kids and the toll that heat takes on their bodies.

Heatstroke is the medical term used to describe when the body’s temperature becomes excessively hot. Simply put, hyperthermia occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it gives off.

Young children are particularly at risk for heatstroke, as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. When their temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.

Kids in Cars
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14. Since 1998, more than 550 children across the United States have died in cars from heatstroke.

How does it happen?

  • More than half of these deaths occur when a driver forgets that the child is in the car. Experts will tell you this can happen to anybody. Our busy lifestyles create enough stress to trigger “mental lapses” that cause your brain to go on autopilot. The lapses can affect something as simple as misplacing your keys or something as crucial as forgetting a baby. Read about one mother’s real story.
  • Almost 30 percent of the time, children get into a car on their own. They find a way into the car, but sometimes, they can’t find a way out.
  • The third scenario is when someone intentionally leaves a child alone in a car. A parent might be running an errand and think, “The baby just fell asleep. I’ll just be gone for a second.” But seconds turn into minutes, and before you know it, the temperature inside of the car has reached lethal levels.

On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside a car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes and upwards of 40-50 degrees in the span of an hour or two. It can be a relatively mild day outside and yet, there can be life threatening temperatures inside a vehicle. “Cracking the window” makes very little difference on the internal temperature in the vehicle. What can you do?

Remember to ACT.

  • Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own. Keep keys out of children’s reach.
  • Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child, such as a briefcase, your purse or your cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine. For a free vinyl cling window reminder, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks.
  • Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

We want to hear from you! Safe Kids Grand Forks has more information on heat stroke, including window clings to remind you to look inside and outside your car. You can visit us at www.safekidsgf.com and like us on Facebook. 

Carma HansonCarma Hanson has been a nurse at Altru Health System for over 25 years and now serves as the coordinator of Safe Kids Grand Forks. Carma enjoys traveling to warm places with her husband and kids and spending time at their lake place. Taking pictures and engaging in community organizations also holds a special place in her heart. 

Safe Kids Grand Forks is an injury prevention coalition who has as their mission to prevent unintentional injuries and death to children under age 19. Safe Kids Grand Forks has Altru Health System as their lead agency, and they serve upper northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. To contact Carma or Safe Kids Grand Forks, send an email to safekids@altru.org

Family Fun in the Grand Forks Sun

Have you heard? The Grand Cities Art Fest is taking place June 8 and 9, 2013.

As the Art Fest website says, admire the art, savor the food, breathe in the outdoors, feel the sun and tune in to new music. We’d like to add one more to the list: bring the whole family!

For the little ones: Rock and Rest Tent
Together, Altru Health System and The Greater Grand Forks Breastfeeding Coalition are excited to provide a Rock and Rest tent at this year’s event. The tent will offer a quiet, private space to nurse and change your little ones. The tent will be conveniently located on the Greenway next to the kids’ zone, including inflatable games and the ArtWise Kids’ Corner. See the guidebook and map (pages 10-11), or look for this sign:

Rock & Rest Tent

For the kiddos: Spin for Kids Arcade
ArcadeS4KAltru will also have a booth within Town Square containing our Spin for Kids Arcade. Inspired by Caine’s Arcade, this cardboard arcade will provide creative, homemade games for the kids to enjoy.

There will be a small fee of $1 for two games or $3 for a fun pass (six games total). Dollars raised will go toward Spin for Kids, whose mission is to provide supportive programs, services and equipment to children with special needs within our community and region.

See the full Spin for Kids 2013 photo album.

For all: We’ve Got You Covered
Altru sunscreen packets will be available for your convenience. The Grand Forks 10-day forecast says the sun should be out to play. Soak up the vitamin D safely. Remember to apply sunscreen every two hours, hydrate often and take sun breaks. (Mayo Clinic reminds us to have fun in the sun, but be sun smart.) 

Sunscreen

Indulge Your Senses
Enjoy this diverse gathering of artistic talent, food and entertainment that highlights our region’s unique culture. Altru’s mission is Improving Health, Enriching Life. Indulging our senses and experiencing all that Art Fest has to offer is one way we’re living our mission. See you there?

Celebrating Life… and Death

“We celebrate the time that we had with our precious babies (twins) and mourn their passing. We wished for these babies for such a long time, and cling to the dreams we had for them, dreams like those of any new parent. We will forever cherish the memories of our brief time together.” 

These parents announced the birth and death of their twins, something people did not think to do years ago. Miscarriage is treated very differently today compared to those years.

In 1994 I was employed as a chaplain. Today, I am the full time Infant Bereavement Coordinator at Altru. Years ago I had a stillbirth. When I went to the hospital, in labor, the nurse told me that I did not want to see my baby. I thought she must know something that I didn’t, because I wanted to see and hold my baby. I was alone when I delivered, but the nurse came and quickly took my perfectly formed little boy before I could even touch him. I never saw him again. Twenty five years later, a nurse mentioned she had named her stillborn baby. It had not occurred to me. I named my baby that day.

Memories of a Short Life
Teddy_blogIn 1989, the staff on the Altru Birthing Unit started giving mothers whose baby died a memory box, a baby ring, a tiny garment for remembrance, photos of their baby and one book on miscarriage. Today, in addition to these items, parents are given a folder of books and information and an Angel Bear. This bear does not replace their baby but is something to hold in their arms. It is a known fact that some mothers have aching arms after the death of their baby.

Burials
In 1994 I asked the Pastoral Services staff if they would support burial services for these babies. After a year and a half of research and work, we had our first burial at Babyland in Calvary cemetery. These continue twice a year, in spring and fall, for all babies. Most parents do not know Box_blogthey can have their own burial for their miscarried baby. If their baby has died and they come to the Birthing Unit for delivery, parents are told they can have their own burial or leave their baby for our burial. If they choose, we will assist them in planning their burial. The carpentry class at Northland Community & Technical College makes small burial boxes which are given to these parents.

Dads Grieve, Too
We have a special book for dads called Strong and Tender which tells how men and women grieve differently and what a dad can do to help his grief.  Dads usually hear, “How is your wife doing?” Rarely does anyone ask how they are doing.

Thanks for the bear and other materials. Together we went through the things we received and my wife fell asleep with the bear in her arms. This afternoon I felt sad and exhausted and I came home to take a nap. When my wife came home, she tucked the bear in my arms and the tears came. We really miss our baby.”

The Christmas Box Angel
In 2000, an angel from Richard Evan’s book “The Christmas Box” was dedicated to children and babies who die before or after birth. It is located in the park east of Altru Hospital. In purchasing the angel, Altru promised to have a memorial service every December 6 for children who have died. At this service, parents can have their baby’s name inscribed on a Christmas ornament that they place on the tree in the lobby of our hospital. At the tenth anniversary of the angel, a Memorial Wall was placed near the angel. This wall has names of children of all ages who have died. The Altru Alliance had a fountain installed at the site.

This summer, take a stroll through the park and see the memorials. And if you have a friend or relative who has a baby die outside of Altru, contact me at 701.780.5257, and I will provide you information to send them.

Toni_blogAltru’s Infant Bereavement Coordinator, Chaplain Toni Betting has worked at Altru for 19 years. She was born and raised in Michigan, N.D. and raised her family in Ellendale, N.D. Toni enrolled in college at the University of Mary in Bismarck at the age of 50, after the last of her nine living children graduated from high school. She graduated with a major in pastoral ministries and a minor in addiction counseling.  She was hired as a chaplain here in 1994 and on January 1, 2013, took the position of full time Infant Bereavement Coordinator. Toni has 28 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. Her favorite pastimes include gardening and traveling, mostly to see her family.