Sixteen tiny newborn quilts took the place of 16 candles recently when Santa Fe donor Erika Abeyta gave the handmade blankets to UNM Hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
The gifts were to commemorate what would have been the 16th birthday of Alyssa and Cortnie Abeyta, premature twins who died shortly after birth at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1998. They were born at only 24 weeks and weighed a mere two pounds combined.
“For reasons I didn’t quite understand, their lives were to end - for Alyssa before she even took her first breath and for Cortnie when she was four days old. But they changed me for the better and they have always stayed in my heart,” said Abeyta.
“I know if my girls would have been alive, I would be making such a fuss about their Sweet 16. It would be a day of balloons, flowers, gifts and a party. Because I cannot do that for them, I had 16 baby quilts made for premature babies who are currently at UNM Hospital," she said.
Newborn ICUs can be overwhelming for new parents. Gifts of blankets and clothing can counterbalance all of the modern technology that abounds in a state-of-the-art care unit. Abeyta commissioned northern New Mexico quilter Sandy Madrid to sew the colorful bundle of quilts.
"I remember the NICU well," Abeyta said. "I wanted to bring a bit of home into the hospital for the parents and families."
Barbara Temer, assistant director of the UNM Hospitals Volunteer Office received the quilts on behalf of the NICU. The Volunteer Office coordinates such gifts and ensures that they are cleaned and prepared to hospital standards before being delivered to the NICU.
"We know that gifts like these help families. The nurses also like picking out blankets and clothing that go with those tiny personalities, and parents hold on to them if their children have to leave for surgeries," Temer said.