Hospital's New 'Cuddle Cot' Will Help Families Grieve Infant Loss

As Brandi Montenegro scooted her children off to bed on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, little did she know how much her life would change.

Baby no. 5 was on her way and Brandi and husband, Paul, excitedly drove to Humboldt General Hospital for a birth they anticipated would be as wonderful—and problem-free—as those of their other four children.

Seven hours later, at 5:19 a.m. Wednesday, April 25, 2018, that dream was shattered.

Sloane Grace Montenegro was an absolutely beautiful 7 pound, 8 ounce baby girl who delivered perfectly with the help of Dr. Brad Granath.

But when she was unable to cry or even breathe, Dr. Granath knew something was terribly wrong.

Within minutes, the Montenegros had a diagnosis: Sloane Grace was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia—an extremely rare birth defect that allows abdominal organs to move into the chest cavity during gestation, instead of remaining in the abdomen as they are developing.

The result is severely underdeveloped lungs, which in Sloane Grace’s case proved fatal before doctors could stabilize her enough to move her to a children’s hospital where a necessary surgery could take place.

The memories of that day will forever be imprinted in Brandi and Paul’s hearts, but one thing that stood out to them both was how quickly their lifeless baby had to be whisked away.

“We wished we could have spent more time with her before we had to say goodbye,” said Brandi as she marked the one-year anniversary of her daughter’s death.

Somehow, that thought kept after her as she, Paul, and their children Kaydence (12), Ethan (11), Raiden (9) and Zoie (7) mourned Sloane’s loss.

She knew if their family felt that way, others have felt it too. So when Tiffany Andersen, RN, a close, personal friend and Brandi’s nurse at HGH’s Mother and Baby Unit, mentioned a cuddle cot, Brandi jumped at the suggestion.

Cuddle cots enable families to spend more precious time with their baby due to a cooling system that fits within the bassinet’s interior.

The system allows for babies who have passed to remain with their families rather than being cooled in a mortuary environment.

Brandi thought it would be a perfect gift for the hospital’s Mother and Baby Unit in honor of the one-year anniversary of Sloane Grace’s death.

However, when hospital officials heard the two women had launched a Go Fund Me account to purchase the unit, Andersen and HGH Maternity/Neonatal Services Manager Lorrie Meiron quickly helped make arrangements to purchase the cuddle cot instead with a plaque memorializing the Montenegro’s efforts and Sloane Grace’s life.

The plaque reads: “With special thanks to the Montenegro family and their sleeping angel, who helped us understand that the small gift of time allows for memories that will last forever. Sloane Grace April 24, 2018.”

The cooling bassinet will now be housed in the HGH Mother and Baby Unit for future families facing a similar circumstance.

“It’s a worst case scenario,” said Meiron, who said the hospital oversees hundreds of happy births each year, “but Brandi and her family have helped us see this need for the one—the one that might not be a happy outcome.”

“In that case,” added Meiron, “the best gift we can give is more time with their baby.”

The past year has not been easy for the Montenegro family as they have tried to “pick up and move forward.”

Brandi said it has been especially hard for the older children who were so excited for Sloane Grace to come home.

“But knowing that others will have the cuddle cot will help,” said Brandi. “I wish I could say there won’t be others, but there probably will, and they’ll have more time to say goodbye.”