December 4, 2021

Cuddle cot donated in honor of late son

Katie Keyser/contributing photographer

Ashley and Robert Turk of Pennellville donated a cuddle cot to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center in honor of their late son, Gavin, on his birthday. The stillborn baby could have made use of the special cot, which allows parents to have more time to say goodbye to their child. The parents are seen here Wednesday, their son’s birth date.

Ashley and Robert Turk of Pennellville want to ease the burden for parents faced with a stillborn child. The couple donated a cuddle cot, a specially designed cradle that allows family to have more time with the baby, to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center on Wednesday, which would have been their son, Gavin’s first birthday.

“The hours we had with Gavin were priceless. After his death, we wanted to help others facing similar heartbreak,” said Ashley Turk. “Infant loss happens every year. Parents need to spend time with their child.”

Ashley’s mom, Glenda Distefano of Chesterfield, Mo., grew up in Homer. The Turks found out the hospital did not have a cuddle cot.

A crowd of some 50 staff, caregivers and Turk family members gathered Wednesday at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center for the donation. Besides the $2,800 cuddle cot, the Turks also donated baby books.

“I commend the family,” said Mark Webster, president of Guthrie Cortland Medical Center. “In times of tragedy, they think of others. This will never be easy. We are very appreciative.”

A cuddle cot is a mobile cooling unit that can be placed at the mother’s bedside. A small machine attaches to the hose that circulates cool water to a small mat, which is placed within a bassinet underneath a sheet. The baby can be placed on the sheet for periods of time, to cool its body and give parents more time to spend with the child, according to a release from the hospital.

“These are probably the most difficult times for us,” said Olga Levitskiy, nurse manager on the maternity ward. “We are used to taking care of babies all the time. When mom has a stillborn birth, we want to be there more for them.”

“We always allow mom and dad to spend as much time as they want with the baby. A cuddle cot allows more time,” she said.

Nurses can save the child’s hair for mom, do hand and foot prints and put together a keepsake box for the parents, she said. “We do as much as we can.”

Time is necessary for parents to adjust, said Donna Turk of Pennellville, Rob’s mom.

“You have a baby and all of a sudden, you don’t have a baby,” she said.

The Turks knew their child would be stillborn and planned on using a cuddle cot, which can keep the baby’s body cool so its body doesn’t deteriorate as quickly.

But when Gavin was born, the cot was being used by another family, who didn’t know their baby would be stillborn.

The Turks found out Gavin had a birth defect, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, meaning his diaphragm did not form properly.

“There’s a 50 percent chance of survival,” Ashley Turk told the crowd.

Then the parents learned if he survived birth, he would need surgery. It would be a tough road if he made it, she said.

“We prayed for a miracle. He was still moving!” said Ashley Turk.

But it was not to be.

“The hours we had with Gavin were priceless. After his death, we wanted to help others facing similar heartbreak,” she said.