So many families in Southeast Texas have been impacted by the destruction of Hurricane Harvey. Thousands evacuated; thousands still stayed. NPR reports that over 100,000 homes have been affected by the storm and resulting flooding.
In the days leading up to the hurricane, hospitals around the Texas coast began evacuating some of their tiniest patients: NICU babies.
The teams of people dedicated to caring for these fragile infants during this frightening disaster are true heroes. We love this story behind evacuating NICU babies from Hurricane Harvey.
Hand to Hold has been honored to provide direct support to many of the evacuated families at their bedside here in Austin, providing care bags, meals and more. As NICU graduate parents ourselves, we cannot imagine adding the stress of flooding and evacuation during a natural disaster to the already overwhelming emotions of having just endured a traumatic birth and a NICU stay. Yet we are here to help them navigate this challenge.
NICU parents are up to 70% more likely to experience postpartum mood disorders such as postpartum depression and post traumatic stress disorder, and these issues are likely to be compounded while dealing with the destruction and devastation Harvey has left behind.
Here are just a few ways you can help a NICU family who has been affected by Hurricane Harvey:
Donate to your local diaper bank. Diapers and wipes are often not included in relief efforts, and those products will be an ongoing need for these families. You can also make a monetary donation to the National Diaper Bank Network, who will turn those funds directly into diapers and wipes for those in need.
Help them at home. It will be very difficult for families to manage taking care of cleanup and repairs while also taking care of their NICU baby. If you know a NICU family whose home is one of the thousands that has been affected by Hurricane Harvey, rally friends and family to help them with this process, so they have a place to come home to when they are ready. Visit FEMA.gov for information on cleanup after long term flooding.
Continue to love on these families. Check in with parents to see how they are doing. As Kelli stated in her last blog post, “Hand to Hold believes that NICU parents are often just as fragile as their babies. Their wounds are not as visible, but their trauma is just as acute.” Text, call, and email to let them know you’re here for them, but allow them to get back to you in their own time. NICU families are often overwhelmed with requests for information on baby’s progress. A quick, “I’m here for you,” means the world to them.
Direct parents to handtohold.org, where they can access direct support from a Family Support Navigator or request a peer mentor to guide and support them through this challenging time.
Tell parents about the NICU Now podcast, our free audio support series that allows parents to access support when and where they need it.
We want to thank our generous donors, supporters, and volunteers, who have rallied to welcome these families with open arms. Thank you to our volunteers in the Houston area who have come together to help other families in need. Finally, we thank you all for your outpouring of love and support you’ve shown Hand to Hold and NICU families during this time.