Norah Foundation hosts blood drive, raises funds for camera at neonatal intensive care unit | TheUnion.com

Norah Foundation hosts blood drive, raises funds for camera at neonatal intensive care unit

This year, the Penn Valley-based Norah Foundation has organized a two-pronged campaign to help families in need.

Not only are they again teaming up with the nonprofit BloodSource Center in Grass Valley to organize a summer blood donor drive, they are also raising funds to install cameras in the rooms of 61 beds inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento.

When Candace and Richard Wilson's baby girl, Norah, was born a month early in November of 2015, the infant was transferred from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital to the neonatal intensive care unit at Sutter Medical Center, and sadly died in the arms of her parents just 15 days after her birth.

As the family looks back on this devastating chapter, one thing remains crystal clear in the Wilsons' memory: there was a critical — and daily — need for blood. Deeply touched by the lifesaving efforts of anonymous donors and other selfless acts during their trying time, the Wilsons went on to create The Norah Foundation in 2016, with a mission of "spreading love and restoring hope in the lives of children and families facing health related hardships."

NEW DONORS NEEDED

The Red Cross reports that only about 3 percent of the U.S. population gives blood, which means blood banks must heavily rely on repeat donors to maintain a sufficient supply. Because many blood drives are organized at schools, new donors are needed during the summer months when school is out. To compound the seasonal shortage, regular donors often delay donating due to summer vacations.

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As a result, volunteers from The Norah Foundation have organized an annual summer blood drive in partnership with BloodSource in Grass Valley, however there are also several convenient centers located throughout Northern and Central California, which can be found through http://www.BloodSource.org. An account in Norah's name has been created, and donors are encouraged to give its number, 0990, when they donate.

While donors can give blood anytime, tables with more information on The Norah Foundation will be set up during the Grass Valley blood drive, which is set for July 31 through Aug. 4.

With the motto "spread the love," the foundation has spearheaded a variety of fundraisers aimed at helping families whose infants are in need of intensive care. This can include providing food, gas and hotel vouchers and other resources, as well as establishing hospital library and art projects designed for the siblings of critically ill children. With a typical annual budget of $75,000, all of the money raised goes directly to families in need.

'ALWAYS TOGETHER' EFFORT

This summer, however, the foundation has launched its most ambitious fundraiser yet — the goal of installing cameras at each of the 61 beds inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento. The project, dubbed "Always Together," is expected to cost $300,000.

"When we were in the hospital with Norah, we couldn't spend the night — we had to leave and it was hard knowing we wouldn't see her until the next morning, and our extended families couldn't see her at all," said Candace Wilson. "But today, in 2018, if we are all able to FaceTime on our phones, we thought, 'Why can't we put a camera in a baby's room so the family can check in on him or her?' I started Googling around, and these do exist in other hospitals, but nothing in our area."

Wilson added that Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento was deemed the best place to launch the pilot program because the majority of critically ill babies — including those from Nevada County — are transported there.

Grass Valley resident Alissa Johnson said she remembers all too well the agony of not being able to see her baby girl after she was born seven weeks early.

"I'd had a C-section, but I was desperate to see her," she said. "I wasn't able to hold her, but I just wanted to get to the NICU to see her. She was in a different building — it just felt so unnatural to have a baby and not be able to touch her and be with her. I had to be transported up to the NICU in a wheelchair, even though at one point I almost passed out because I was so weak. If I could have pulled up a camera and seen her, that would have made all the difference. I would have taken better care of myself and spent more time in bed."

When babies are born in distress in hospitals that do not have neonatal intensive care units, Johnson said it's fairly common for the baby to be transported to a facility with a NICU, while the mother stays behind, sometimes up to several days.

"Two years ago the NICU Camera Project initially was just a dream — it seemed out of reach and there was so much red tape," said Wilson. "But then we told our story to the board at Sutter and explained how it would improve patient care. They were impressed. Now we're essentially a pilot program and they're considering expanding it to all nine of their regional hospitals.

"We're thrilled that Norah's life has impacted so many families — not just the hundreds we help each year. With the cameras, literally thousands of families will be impacted."

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.

The Norah Foundation Blood Drive

July 31 through Aug. 4

To donate, visit http://www.BloodSource.org to find the nearest location and scheduled an appointment. Donors are encouraged to giveThe Norah Foundation’s account number, which is 0990.

NICU Camera Project

For more information on the NICU Camera Project fundraiser, visit http://www.TheNorahFoundation.org.