By MIKE REUTHER
One person's experience - be it happy or painful - can be something that strikes a chord with someone else facing similar circumstances.
Tapping the resources of a mentor, someone with whom to share the experience, can be beneficial.
Geisinger Medical Center's Janet Weis Children's Hospital earlier this year launched Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania, a program for mothers and their families facing special needs with their newborns.
"We have found it to be helpful," said Phoebe Beckley, March of Dimes NICU Family Support Coordinator, Geisinger Medical Center. "We have four families right now that have consistently used the program. So, it's definitely been working. They have seen results."
As Phoebe noted, only a family that has had a child in the NICU (Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit) can really know what another family is experiencing.
"It's helpful to have someone to talk
to who truly understands," she added.
The Children's Hospital is one of just four hospitals in the state to offer a formal NICU parent to parent connection through the program.
The program was launched following a Children's Hospital NICU reunion in March 17. Since then, 22 past NICU parents have signed up as mentors and two families with ailing newborns have taken advantage of the program.
The program can help mothers and families of newborns struggling with any of various medical issues.
"A NICU baby may have a colostomy and the new mother may have several questions, such as 'How many colostomy bags do you use a day?', 'Can I take my baby to the grocery store?', 'What type of adhesive works the best?'," said Kelly Hammaker, patient and family centered care coordinator at JWCH. "With the network of NICU parents, all these questions can be answered by someone who has faced the same struggles before."
Anyone who has a child in the Geisinger's NICU can link up with a mentor whose child went through the hospital's NICU, according to GMC spokesman Mike Ferlazzo.
However, they can access the Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania program for a mentor as well.
Statewide, there exist 1400 such mentors.
Hammaker, whose son was born with his own medical problem some 24 years ago, later became a mentor.
"I remember getting calls about changing colostomy bags," she recalled.
Geisinger officials noted that HIPPA laws make it difficult to find certain information about patients, but the Parent to Parent program can provide a family with the access they need.
"This way you can get an okay from the mentor family," Phoebe said.
Geisinger is hoping to reach out to more families in need of the Parent to Parent program, officials noted.
More information is at www.parenttoparent.org or 1-888-727-2706.