90-year old volunteer cuddles babies in NICU

Local News

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — More than 500 babies born at Carle Foundation Hospital will have to spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit this year.

There are special volunteers who help give parents peace of mind.

“I don’t have to tell them my age because they know,” Eileen Olson said laughing.

She has a sense of humor when it comes to how long she’s been volunteering at Carle Hospital.

“I wrote people’s names on the blackboard,” she laughed. “Then they start laughing.”

She says it’s been about 30 years, but for the past 4 years she’s had what she calls the most rewarding job.

“I got to be a cuddler!” she exclaimed.

When she first signed up to cuddle the babies in the NICU she said she had to look up what her job would be.

“I did in the dictionary,” she explained. “I wanted to know. I didn’t know who gave the cuddlers the name, but that’s a perfect name, to hold close.”

Now, she’s done it all.

“Here I even got excited,” she told the baby she was cuddling. “At home I thought, ‘what’ll I do if he cries?’ See, I even talked about you yesterday. I says, ‘what’ll I do if you start crying?’ But look at what you did for me, huh?”

It could have been tears, but in fact, Remington gave Eileen the exact opposite.

“Look at you, sure!” she said to Remington. “Can you look at the camera and smile? Sure, Remy. Remember I told you, this is your day.”

Remington is one of more than 500 babies who will be taken care of in the NICU this year.

“The number one thing to develop the baby’s brain is to be held, skin to skin or cuddling with human contact,” Kaci Lowery, the NICU nurse explained.

She said it’s not just for that, thought. It helps with the mom guilt, too.

“I think it just takes a little bit of weight off to know, that you know I can go to my son’s basketball game, or I can even go back to work and know that my baby’s not just laying there,” Lowery said. “He or she is being held and cared for.”

And to all the future moms out there, don’t worry. Eileen said, she’s not going anywhere.

“As long as they put up with me, I’ll stay,” she laughed. 

Remington is now home with his parents. He spent 50 days in the NICU, and doctors said thanks to all the love he got from the cuddlers, he’s doing just fine. 

The need for this volunteer opportunity has been filled at Carle Foundation Hospital, but there are other opportunities available. Visit carle.org for more information.

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