Four years ago, Peggy Sawala delivered twins. Born at 29 weeks, they weighed just 2 1/2 pounds each.
“My husband and I didn’t know what to do,” the Westporter recalls. The girls were in Stamford Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 6 weeks, hooked up to monitors, feeding tubes and respirators. “It was a time of such tension, ignorance, fear and emotion.”
Within hours after delivery, a mentor from the Tiny Miracles Foundation visited Peggy’s room. She had never heard of the organization, a low-key group offering support, information, services and supplies to families of premature infants.
Few people hear of Tiny Miracles — until they need it. Then they never forget it.
Tiny Miracles makes close matches. Mentors who have had gestational issues — or heart problems, or who lost their babies — help new moms in similar situations.
Peggy’s mentor had delivered twins too. “I didn’t even realize I needed to hear her story,” Peggy says. But it was a very important conversation.
Tiny Miracles runs resource rooms at 4 area hospitals: Norwalk, Bridgeport, Stamford and Danbury. The rooms are filled with books, and inspiring stories and photos of other NICU families. There’s a computer, printer, telephone, TV and toys for siblings.
Tiny Miracles provides welcome bags too, including preemie-sized clothing that allows access for medical equipment.
“My girls had so many monitors and tubes, they couldn’t wear clothes,” Peggy says. “The 1st time I saw one of them in a doll-sized t-shirt from Tiny Miracles, I sobbed. It made her so much more human.”
When Peggy’s twins finally left the hospital, Tiny Miracles provided a take-home bag. “There were these tiny sleepers and shirts,” Peggy says. “I wouldn’t have known where to get them.”
The kit also includes preemie-sized diapers, pacifiers, bottles, skin care and other supplies.
Most of all though, Peggy appreciates the camaraderie Tiny Miracles provides. “As much support as we had from family and friends, no one had gone through such a premature birth. Tiny Miracles validated our feelings, gave us advice, and got us through that awful time.”
Four years later, Peggy volunteers as a Tiny Miracles mentor herself.
Another Westporter recalls the birth of her son, 8 weeks premature. She had 4 other kids at home — all under 5 1/2.
Tiny Miracles president Leelee Klein “came to my rescue. She listened. She told me everything I needed to hear. She let me cry,” the Westport mom recalls.
“I felt so much better. I could breathe. I could carry on. I swore that when Charlie was in preschool, I would give all of my free time to be a Leelee.”
She does. And she calls her hours in the NICU “some of the most special days in my life.”
A recent recipient of Tiny Miracles’ wisdom and generosity is Annie Batlin. Teddy was born July 1, with severe lung problems. He spent a week in the Norwalk Hospital NICU, and it was touch-and-go.
Annie’s husband Ned was as supportive as possible. But when Jennifer Lau walked in and introduced herself as a Tiny Miracles representative, he left the 2 women alone. “I knew Annie was in better hands than mine,” Ned says.
“It was wonderful to have someone there who’d actually been through the same thing. Jennifer was there all week. She helped Annie in her greatest hour of need — the worst time of our life.”
Ned adds, “You can be the biggest, toughest guy in the world” — and, as a Westport cop, he looks the part — “but no one can help in that situation the way Tiny Miracles can.
“If I ever won the lottery, I’d set up a charitable foundation to give money away. Tiny Miracles would definitely be near the top of the list.”
Like any non-profit, Tiny Miracles could use the help. In addition to the many items mentioned above, the organization offers financial assistance to defray non-medical costs, like parents’ transportation to visit their baby, babysitting for older siblings, and specialized equipment, supplies and services.
Fortunately, there is a way for Ned — and anyone else — to contribute.
For the 1st time ever, Tiny Miracles is holding a Westport fundraiser. The gala — “A Night of Miracles” — is Friday, May 2 (7 p.m.), at the Inn at Longshore. There’s cocktails, dinner, dancing, and silent and live auctions.
“Live” auctions. To the mother of a premature baby — and the mentors of Tiny Miracles — that’s the sweetest word in the world.
(For tickets to the “Night of Miracles” gala, or more information, click here.)