Octopus for a Preemie dolls helping NICU babies at Carilion

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Tiny little dolls make a huge difference for the tiniest of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Carilion Children’s.

“They offer them comfort and they actually have been shown to reduce their stress by having decreased heart rate and respiratory rate,” said Kim Ramsey, NICU Nurse Specialist at Carilion.

The octopus dolls also let the babies hold on to something. They can pull on the tiny tentacles instead of their tubes and wires.

“It’s comforting for the babies but it’s also comforting for the parents because they’re able give their baby something that comforts them, so when they leave the hospital they know their baby is happy and being taken care of,” Ramsey said.

And it truly is a labor of love. Each octopus is hand-made specifically for preemies. Janet Schofield and her daughter organize the donations to Carilion.

“It’s going really good, it’s a great project to be involved in,” Schofield said.

Schofield crochets and Heather Bracey, a nurse in the Mother Baby unit, drops off the donated dolls after they’ve been carefully inspected and approved for the preemies.

She says she looks for things like how hard the heads are, how long each tentacle is, she says they can’t be longer than 8”, and how tightly crocheted, or knit they are.

“I think it’s been really positive. I don’t work directly on this floor so I don’t get the interaction, but I’ve heard it does make a huge difference,” Bracey said.

And the dolls that aren’t usable in the NICU setting, are still put to good use.

“They go to the fire department and they use those, they have them in the truck for accidents and things to hand them out to little kiddos that need some comfort. SO they all go somewhere special,” Schofield said.

She says, the best part of the whole project is knowing it makes such a difference for families, and calls it crocheting for a cause.

If you’re interested in helping Janet Schofield crochet octopus dolls, email her Jschofield1128@gmail.com or visit the national facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/octoforapreemieus/ for more information.