In 2001, Yamile Jackson, PhD, developed severe pre-eclampsia. In order to save her life and her son’s – Zachary had to be delivered prematurely, weighing less than two pounds. Three weeks after his birth, while he was still in the NICU, Tropical Storm Allison flooded Houston and shut-down all power to his hospital including his life-support equipment. His parents and the NICU staff kept him alive “by hand” for 9 hours until he was safely evacuated. Yamile held him in kangaroo care while her husband Larry and nurses took turns “bagging” him. Eventually doctors found hospitals where they could safely evacuate the 79 babies in the NICU.
An Aha! Moment
During this traumatic experience, Yamile prayed for the opportunity to help babies on Zachary’s behalf. Every day for at least 10 hours she was at the hospital personally providing proper intervention strategies, individualized care, and therapeutic touch for her fragile baby. The nurses taught her that her presence was invaluable. When she was not kangarooing she used her hands to provide effective neonatal developmental care practices in comforting, nurturing and healing her convalescent baby. She promised Zachary that his pain and struggle to survive were not going to be in vain. She knew she would use her talents and experience to make the NICU stay more comfortable for other babies.
A Parent’s Healing Touch
While the nurses had to care for multiple babies at the same time, Yamile gave her undivided attention to Zachary. However, at the end of each day the agony of leaving her son was too difficult to bear. She kept asking herself, “How can I help Zachary when I am not here?” and wished she could leave her scent and loving touch so her baby would not feel alone or abandoned. Using her background and PhD in ergonomic and human factors engineering, she created two ergonomic hands, Zakys, to simulate her and Larry’s hands. These arms continued giving “undivided attention” to Zachary until his parents returned in the morning. Upon Zachary’s departure from the hospital after 155 days in the NICU, the nurses requested that she make the Zakys to help all the babies in the NICU. Thus, her company was born.
Zachary’s story not only inspires everyone at Nurtured by Design, the company she founded, but his story of survival has also been featured in international media, articles, documentaries, and even the made-for-TV movie 14:Hours which aired on TNT.
Helping Parents Provide Kangaroo Care More Comfortably
Yamile “kangarooed” Zachary for 6-7 hours each day in the NICU and is a strong advocate of Kangaroo Care. She is a certified Kangaroo Care Professional and a facilitator of the Certification Course provided by the US Institute for Kangaroo Care. As with her creation of the Zaky, she designed the Kangaroo Zak™ with the sole objective of facilitating hands-free, safe, prolonged, and effective kangaroo care sessions in the hospital and later on at home. The Kangaroo Zak™ consists of soft, breathable, stretchy and strapless top that wraps around the torso of a parent and closes on the side with an adjustable zipper to hold a baby in the correct position. The ergonomic device accommodates medical connections, helps infants maintain their temperature, and gives parents a way to hold their child easier so kangaroo sessions can last longer.
A Small Business with Big Impact
Inspired by the premature birth of her son, Yamile founded her firm Nurtured by Design which manufacturers Zakys and Kangaroo Zaks™ to raise the standard of developmental care that hospitals and parents can provide to children in their care. Yamile explains, “Babies only grow, heal, and develop the brain when they are in deep sleep. We are successful in providing an ergonomic environment that promotes sleep, effective parental intervention, and help the staff minimize interruptions, disruptions, and unscheduled nursing interventions.” The results of an independent clinical research suggest that The Zakys significantly improve self-regulation and significantly decrease apnea and bradycardia of prematurity, thus improving neurological development. And, many fellow parents can identify with the connections and bonding that occurs between parent and child during skin-to-skin contact or Kangaroo care. We look forward to hearing more about innovations from Nurtured by Design!