Seven Hills “Kuddlers’’ Are Dedicated To The Babies

A volunteer cuddles a baby with complex medical issues at Seven Hills Pediatric Center.

Once a week Maureen Canning and Carla LeBlanc rev up the rocking chairs and cuddle the babies at Seven Hills Pediatric Center, a skilled nursing facility for children with complex medical needs.

The women are part of the newly-formed Kuddler’s group at the Groton, MA residential home.  Eight volunteers regularly hug and rock the youngest of the center’s 83 residents, who have severe physical and cognitive impairments.

“As Director of Admissions, I have seen an increase in infant and toddler referrals, said Jen Amadon, MSN, RN.  “We recognized the need to provide age-appropriate individualized attention, so I reached out to Boston Children’s Hospital for information about their volunteer programs, and a group of us built our Kuddler’s group from there.”

Maureen, retired from an insurance agency and mother of staffer Beth Spinelli, had already been doing arts and crafts with older children at the center when she became the first Kuddler.  Her friend Carla, retired from MIT’s Lincoln Labs, joined her; together they recruited friends and the group has been growing ever since.

Carla and Maureen
“It’s hard when they are discharged; I become attached to the babies, but I know it’s a positive move,” said Maureen. “There are so many children with complicated conditions, I’m glad I can provide a sense of comfort even if it is only for a short while.”

Carla said growing up with a sister with complex needs heightened her compassion for people with disabilities, so she’s comfortable holding a baby who may have a seizure at any moment, and doesn’t panic when he keeps popping off the moisture exchanger that keeps his breathing tube clear. “But I understand it’s not for everyone,” she said.

Both women say the key is seeing beyond the complex needs and reaching out to the child inside.

Krista Shell, RN says personal attention “makes a huge difference” to all the residents, but especially the babies who are just learning about the world. For more information about being a Kuddler, contact Kim Boivin at kboivin@sevenhills.org.