Phoenix-area nonprofit helps infants exposed to opioids recover from withdrawal

Every 15 minutes, a baby is born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is caused by withdrawals from certain drugs they were exposed to in the womb. 

In Gilbert, a nonprofit that helps those babies detox is in desperate need of nurses to help with that process.

"When a baby is going through that withdrawal process, it's very much the same - vomiting diarrhea, fevers, chills, inability to sleep," said Tara Sundem with Hushabye Nursery.

The condition is most common when a woman takes opioids during her pregnancy. 

When Sundem originally founded Hushabye Nursery, her goal was to make withdrawal easier for babies.

"We have a bassinet, a swing, a twin bed where the families get to stay 24/7," said Sundem. "What we have been able to do here at Hushabye is decrease the lengths of stay. The average length of stay is 21 days across the country for a baby that's going through that withdrawal process. We have been able to cut it down to seven days."

"It's quite a thing to see a child going through withdrawal. A child…shaking and uncomfortable and in pain," said a volunteer.

Volunteers who cuddle the babies in their greatest time of need are part of the program's success.

"I realized I had to take it one hour at a time, one baby at a time, and decided that the reward was in having a crying baby and giving them just a few moments of comfort just knowing they have a moment in their day when they're not crying anymore, and maybe I helped with that," said the volunteer.

Hushabye Nursery desperately needs nurses to help infants through detox and recovery.

Arizona currently ranks in the top five states for nurse staffing shortages, and Hushabye Nursery is feeling the impact.  

In addition, the ongoing opioid crisis and a rough cold, flu and RSV season means Hushabye's 12-bed nursery is full 24/7.

"The environment makes a difference, having people…be able to hold the baby when they need something immediately makes a difference," Sundem said. "I knew this care model would make a difference, I didn't know how much."

Hushabye has immediate opening for two full nighttime nurses and one part-time nurse.

If you can't volunteer but want to help, the Bob and Renee Parson Foundation has a one-to-one match through April 15 for up to a million dollars. Every dollar donated to Hushabye is matched. 

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