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Parents turn personal tragedy into making a difference

story by Jamie Smith
jsmith@thecitywire.com

When Melissa Posinski and her husband lost their daughter only 100 days after baby Elizabeth was born, they knew they had a choice of being miserable, or allowing their faith in God to help them heal.

First, go back in time more than eight years when the family lived in Dallas, Texas, and Melissa heard about a program called Newborns in Need that made specialized clothing for babies. She started helping that group and when the family moved back to Northwest Arkansas in 2004, she knew she would eventually want to get something similar started here. Over the years she collected fabric that could be used to make the baby clothes and blankets until the time was right to start a similar program in Northwest Arkansas.

In June 2011, their world — and perspective — changed forever when Elizabeth was born with a heart defect. She died that September, just 100 days later.

After taking time to grieve, Melissa and her husband agreed it was time to take their pain and help someone else, someone who was in a similar situation that they had faced just months before.

“If everybody helped one other person every day, it would be an amazing world that we live in,” she said.

In February 2012, Northwest Arkansas Difference Makers was born. The group meets monthly in the Posinski’s home to make vests, hats and blankets for the babies.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE
When a baby is admitted to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, it’s often an emergency situation fraught with fear, anxiety and uncertainty for the parents.

Sometimes it is because the baby is born early, or born with severe health problems. Or, those health problems could have developed sometime during the infancy. No matter the situation, the babies are usually covered in tubes, wires and other foreign medical devices, making it difficult if not impossible for the parents to hold or even touch their child.

The babies cannot wear traditional baby clothes because they are often too small to fit in the clothes, but mostly because the numerous tubes, leads and other medical devices that are attached. Medical staff also needs ready access to the infant’s surgery incisions or to take x-rays of the baby.

The small, hand-made vests that members of the NWA Difference Makers create open to the front and use only plastic snaps so that the clothing doesn’t have to be removed during x-rays or other procedures. They are in vibrant and cheerful colors, which brightens the nursery and the child’s appearance, Posinski said.

“A lot of moms are scared to touch the baby because of everything on it,” she said. “This helps them connect to their baby as a baby not as a patient.”

Laura Weyrens, social worker at the Children’s Hospital, said the blankets and clothes put a “smile on the mommas’ faces. It brightens up their day.”

Being able to add color to the baby’s bed with a simple blanket helps the parents connect to the baby, she said.

“They do amazing work,” she said of the Difference Makers. “We are very fortunate that they do what they do for us.”

GETTING INVOLVED
About a dozen people meet regularly at Posinski’s home on the first Saturday of the month from 9-12. They all have varying skill levels from crocheting to sewing to simply cutting out material or attaching snaps.

Hannah Scott of Bella Vista has been involved since the group started.

“It’s been amazing to help the parents and help remind them that there’s a child underneath all the tubes,” she said, adding that she “loves hearing of the joy that it brings to the families who are being blessed by people who don’t know them.”

She said that there’s always room for more people to get involved.

“There’s tons of stuff to do even if they don’t know how to knit or sew,” she said.

Lori Pratt from Rogers has been involved since the beginning. Her daughter was born four months before Elizabeth and spent some time at the Children’s Hospital. She is now a healthy and happy toddler.

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“We walked that same path with ours (that many parents of babies at the hospital endure),” she said. “The ministry is so incredible. She is using a terrible tragedy in her life to pour into the lives of others.”

Betty Metcalf teaches summer classes at Lifesource International to students in grades six through 12. Last summer, she had them get involved in the program by teaching them to cut out the fabric for the shirts.

“It was phenomenal that they could help in this way,” she said. “They loved that they could help serve people.” 

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