Laurie Baker’s daughter Madison is sleeping, but she wants to give her a hug. Squeezing cleaner on her hands, Laurie scrubs them down well before opening the doors of the isolette. Gently, Laurie places one hand over Madison’s tiny head, and cups the other around her bottom. “It calms her,” she tells me while turning back to the isolette. “Hi baby, it’s mommy.”
Born months before her due date, mother and daughter now spend their days in Sunnybrook’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Weeks after her birth, Madison weighs only 3 pounds. Laurie speaks for the community of parents of preemies when she describes the whole experience as an “emotional rollercoaster” that you have to live “day by day”. Except for today, which is all about planning for the future.
Down the hall from her room, Laurie slips into a small classroom with several other preemie parents. They are all here to learn CPR, a series of potentially lifesaving skills that will be critical after leaving the cocoon of health specialists within the hospital. Preemies face specific health risks because of their size and development, including a higher risk of choking, so in a way the two-hour session is equal parts skill and reassurance. It’s good to know that there is a way to manage the worst-case scenario.
Before the session, Laurie and I had a chance to sit down and talk about her thoughts on CPR. While most people would agree it’s an important skill, Laurie has actually seen the lifesaving results firsthand. During a camping trip two years ago, a man in a nearby boat had slumped over following a heart attack. She and another bystander delivered CPR until paramedics arrived on scene. “There is the possibility you have to use it in life,” she told me. “So I’m very, very grateful that this is an opportunity.”