Heartbeat Teddy Bears Bring Comfort to NICU Families

October 27, 2021 by

by Angee June, NICU Fellow

Naomi, Pete, and Angee in front of the NICU entrance

RN Naomi Rademeyer, Dr. Pete Murray, and Fellow Angee June

A newborn baby’s heartbeat is one of the most precious sounds to the ears of their parents and families. As a first-year fellow at UVA, we are taught early on how to use our unit’s point-of-care ultrasound machine. This sparked my idea to have fellows use ultrasound to make heartbeat recordings. We placed these recordings into the paw of a teddy bear and gave them to parents as a comforting keepsake so that they could listen to their baby’s heartbeat. I saw firsthand how these Heartbeat Teddy Bears were especially meaningful and important to NICU parents and families experiencing grief and loss of an infant.

With guidance and mentorship from Pete Murray, MD, MSM and Naomi Rademeyer, RN, I recently applied for and received an award from The Little Giraffe Foundation NICU Support Fund to start a Heartbeat Teddy Bear program here in our NICU at UVA. I am passionate about finding meaningful ways to support parents and families of a baby in the NICU and my hope is that each bear can offer a small piece of comfort for bereaved parents and families.

“The NICU at the University of Virginia takes care of some of the sickest patients from across the Commonwealth. Given our propensity to care for incredibly sick babies, it naturally follows that some of them will not live despite our best intentions. A baby’s heartbeat, while still in mom, represents a tangible reminder of life and love. At the end of a baby’s life, if we could record their heartbeat using ultrasound and gift that recording in a beautiful teddy bear to the bereaved parents, this would be a lasting reminder of their love. Thanks to the generous Little Giraffe Foundation, parents whose babies die in the UVA NICU can hear their baby’s heartbeat, a symbol of love, in perpetuity,” said Dr. Murray.

little giraffe logo - outline of a giraffe with the text "little giraffe foundation, helping the littlest patients grow to great heights"

The Little Giraffe Foundation is a nationally recognized non-profit organization started in 2011 by parents Mike and Amanda Santoro to honor the memory and life of their daughter, Cheyenne Elise Santoro. It is dedicated to funding neonatal research and supporting parents of the NICU. Each year, the foundation receives applications from NICUs across the country and selects approximately 14-16 proposals to fund. We are incredibly grateful for The Little Giraffe Foundation’s consideration and support of this great program that will help so many of our NICU parents and families at UVA!

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