turning hurt into help for others

After miscarriages and fertility treatments, Stefanie and Karl Smith finally got some good news: She was pregnant with twins. But at just 24 weeks pregnant, Smith learned at a routine prenatal visit that her cervix was already dilated. Though her doctor put her on bed rest, nine days later Jack and Abby were born.

The Smiths watched in shock as their babies struggled to survive. Abby passed away at 13 days old and Jack followed her 12 days later.

While many would remain paralyzed by the loss, the Smiths decided to draw on their experience to help others.

Five years later, their Jack and Abby Neonatal Foundation is making a big difference by increasing awareness of pre-term labor and raising money to help families with children in Richmond-area Neonatal Intensive Care Units.

Education

Teaching women about pre-term labor risks and symptoms is central to the Jack and Abby Neonatal Foundation’s work.

“Preterm labor can occur in any pregnancy and it is very important for pregnant women to be aware of the signs and symptoms. It does not just occur in pregnancies with multiples; it can happen even if you have had a normal pregnancy in the past,” said Smith.

Financial Support

Having a child in a NICU is not only emotional and physically draining, it can also be financially stressful because of the unexpected and unavoidable costs.

The Jack and Abby Neonatal Foundation pays for child care for older children, hotel rooms, car seats, food, transportation and more, which is especially important for families who live far from a major hospital.

“There are so many great organizations out there, like the March of Dimes, doing wonderful work raising money for research. But they are unable to give directly to families like we are able to do,” said Smith.

“We hope that this helps families stay together and focus more on each other and less on finances during such an unknowing and trying time,” she said.

A place to stay

The Jack and Abby Neonatal Foundation sponsored a room at the new Evelyn D. Reinhart Guest House on the campus of St. Mary’s Hospital. Since opening on June 9, 2014, the Guest House has served more than 250 families with loved ones at St. Mary’s. Now, families with a child in the NICU will be able to stay in a private bedroom with access to a kitchen and community room. They will also be able to draw support from others at the house.

Giving back by raising money for the guest house, managing the Jack and Abby Foundation and supporting families with babies in NICUs is a labor of love for the Smiths, who are also managing their busy careers.

And, one more person keeps them busy: their healthy, young son, Matthew.

To learn more or make a donation, visit bsvaf.org/supportjackandabby. You can designate your gift specifically for the St. Mary’s Hospital NICU.