Grieving parents want to offer comfort to others

Months after losing their infant son, Alissa Rodriguez and Ryan Mellor have donated to AdventHealth Zephyrhills the same kind of device that helped provide them comfort in the hours immediately following Collin’s death.

During a March 26 ceremony at the hospital, the Wesley Chapel couple provided a CuddleCot to be used by other families that are going through the same tragic circumstances that they experienced.

Amanda Maggard, president and CEO of AdventHealth Zephyrhills, left, accompanied family members of Collin Sebastian Mellor as the hospital received a CuddleCot donation on March 26. Next to the hospital executive is Alessandra Mellor, her parents Ryan and Alissa, sister Carolina, as well as grandparents Migdoel Rodriguez and Sonia Garcia. (Courtesy of Ashley Jeffery/AdventHealth West Florida Division)

Chaplains, medical staff and family gathered in a hospital room at AdventHealth Zephyrhills, as the couple presented their gift.

The CuddleCot is a device which uses flowing water to cool a pad, which can be placed in a basket, or in the arms of a parent, to provide extra time with the baby.

“We’re so grateful to be able to have this donation of the CuddleCot, because it gives those moms (and dads) the opportunity (to hold the baby) before they say goodbye,” said Sonia Yaksich, nurse manager of the Women’s Health Center at AdventHealth Zephyrhills. “This is a beautiful and perfect way for families to provide a memory for their child.”

As the couple made their donation, they were bestowed with a plaque honoring the memory of Collin Sebastian Mellor.

Although little Collin was delivered stillborn, he was safely cushioned by the pad as family members said their farewell in September of last year.

Sharing the story of their loss was difficult, as Alissa and Ryan read a letter they had prepared for the gathering.

For support, Christina Stamper was at the couple’s side, and when they were overcome by emotion, she finished reading the letter on their behalf.

“Due to the CuddleCot, we were able to stay with our son in our room,” Stamper read. “During the first few hours of absolute shock, there was no time, clarity to say, do, or express all that you would like to.”

Stamper could resonate with the parents’ struggle as she, too, lost her daughter, who was delivered stillborn.

Through the pain, she and her husband founded Madison’s Miracles – an organization named after their late daughter.

This CuddleCot device was donated to AdventHealth Zephyrhills in memory of Collin Sebastian Mellor on March 26.

Its purpose is to offer support groups to parents who have lost an infant, as well as raise funds to help pay for funerals and private counseling.

After discovering the CuddleCots – based in the United Kingdom – Stamper decided to have one brought to Florida.

“I needed to bring it here because nobody in the state had them,” she recalled.

In October 2016, she donated the first one to the Martin Health System, the hospital in Stuart, Florida, where Madison was delivered.

She has since teamed up with Ryan and Alissa with the goal of donating six CuddleCots to various hospitals in the U.S., and Puerto Rico.

AdventHealth Zephyrhills was their first stop, with Stanford University and Tampa General Hospital as next destinations.

Ryan is a cardiac surgeon at AdventHealth Tampa where he is acutely aware of the concept of mortality.

However, after he and his wife experienced the loss personally, they felt compelled to help others in need.

“We want to raise awareness that they’re (CuddleCots) there,” the doctor explained. “They should be available to people who are going through this.”

Even with his busy schedule, he said he wants to be present when each hospital receives their gift.

As for the staff at AdventHealth Zephyrhills, they will be reminded of the priceless value of their gift, as it has been imprinted with Collin’s full name.

Stamper stated that, “every family that walks through this door and has a loss, whether stillbirth or shortly after infant loss, will be guided by the arms open wide of Collin Sebastian.”

Published April 03, 2019

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