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The gift of time: Birth Center in River Falls receives donated CuddleCot

Mike and Meagan Wizceb pose with a donated CuddleCot device April 21, 2018, at River Falls Area Hospital. They are joined by (right) Marti Rasmussen with Halos of the St. Croix Valley and (left, from left) Dawn Rogers, Ellen Johnson and Angela Johnson with River Falls Area Hospital. Submitted photo

Families grieving a stillborn baby have a new support option thanks to the fundraising efforts of an Illinois family that knows what it feels like to lose a child.

The Birth Center at River Falls Area Hospital, part of Allina Health, recently received a donated CuddleCot, a small cooling system that goes inside a bassinet to allow bereaved parents more uninterrupted time with their baby.

"We don't want any more families to have to go through such a traumatic experience, and then be forced to say goodbye in such a short amount of time," said Meagan Wizceb, who delivered a stillborn boy, Wyatt Michael Wizceb, just over a year ago at a hospital near the family's Elburn, Illinois home. Wizceb said she and her husband, Mike, valued the compassionate care they received, which included the use of a CuddleCot.

Weeks later, after researching more about stillbirth, Wizceb said she was dismayed to learn only a small percentage of U.S. hospitals have access to CuddleCots. To share their son's legacy and help other families in need, the Wizcebs created Wishes For Wyatt to raise money to donate CuddleCots around the country.

The donation to River Falls Area Hospital was the family's third, and their first in Wisconsin. The Wizcebs made the trip to River Falls for a dedication event April 21 with hospital staff and Halos of the St. Croix Valley, a local support organization that helped with the donation process.

Meagan's cousin, Ryan Wheeler, and his River Falls family have promoted Wishes For Wyatt since the beginning, so the Wizcebs said they wanted to give back the community. Leesa Strickland, a patient care coordinator in Illinois who has helped the family make contact with hospitals for donations, reached out to Halos of the St. Croix Valley.

When Halos project director Marti Rasmussen received the message, she said she knew River Falls Area Hospital was the right fit.

"River Falls is my home, and one of the few local hospitals that doesn't have a CuddleCot System placed by us," Rasmussen wrote in an email, noting she received compassionate care at the hospital after a series of miscarriages.

The organization receives an average of two calls per week from families in need of support, according to Rasmussen. Halos of the St. Croix Valley provides services such as memorial photography, funeral planning, virtual support groups and financial assistance for burial and cremation.

"All of our funding is provided by our amazing community who has believed in us since 2013, and without them we would not be able to continue to provide our mission of support, love and advocacy for our child loss community," Rasmussen continued.

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Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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