SUMMIT, NJ – JANUARY 2020 – A nurse at Overlook Medical Center recently helped present parents who deliver stillborn babies with something she wished she had when she delivered her own – more time.

On January 15, Christine Casadonte, RN, who has worked in the hospital’s emergency department since 2010, presented her colleagues in Overlook’s labor and delivery department with a Cuddle Cot, a cooling device that allows parents of stillborn or deceased infants to spend time with their babies.

The device was purchased with funds raised by Pockets of Light, a nonprofit bereavement support service based in Montclair, where Casadonte volunteers as a peer facilitator for pregnancy and infant loss support groups.

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In 2013, Casadonte and her husband Jon found out they were expecting their first child, a baby girl, due to arrive in May 2014. After an uncomplicated and healthy pregnancy, the couple were devastated to learn that their daughter’s heart suddenly stopped beating at 38 weeks of gestation. Ava was delivered stillborn on May 3, 2014.

Immediately after their loss, Casadonte used various types of grief support, including online support groups and weekly in-person therapy. Her desire to help other parents and families suffering the loss of a baby led her to Pockets of Light. The organization was founded by Erin Truxillo, Jennifer Brown and Denise Cante, three families who suffered losses of pregnancy or infants and realized there was a great need in the community for this type of support.

Since then, Casadonte and her husband were fortunate to bring home two children after Ava’s death.

“At the time, it was hard being a nurse and being on the other side of the bed,” Casadonte said. “But I also remember thinking I’m going to do something positive with this experience. Her (Ava’s) life is going to be important.”

“My hopes are that this donation gives parents the option to be more comfortable with the baby following a loss, and the reassurance that Overlook has the resources to help support them at this time,” including access to Pockets of Light’s offerings such as support groups, Casadonte said.

Stillbirth, defined as the death of a baby in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy, affects about 1 in 100 pregnancies each year in the United States, according to the March of Dimes. This accounts for about 1 percent of all pregnancies, or about 24,000 babies. Neonatal death, when a baby dies in the first 28 days of life, happens in about 4 in 1,000 babies (less than 1 percent) each year in the United States, according to March of Dimes.

While a rare occurrence, the impact of stillbirth or deceased baby on parents and families is enormous, and the ability to spend more time with the baby in the hours following delivery or birth can be incredibly helpful with the grieving process, said Monica Myron, nurse manager, of Overlook’s maternity center.

“While we deliver thousands of babies each year who go home with their parents, stillbirth and infant death remains a reality, and in that moment, being better able to help families cope with the loss is crucial,” Myron said. “Pockets of Light’s gift will be immensely helpful for our team to be able to offer support should this occur.”

“Christine’s generosity and empathy for other families experiencing the same loss as she and her husband are attributes of a role model in nursing,” said MaryPat Sullivan, Overlook’s chief nursing officer. “She truly exemplifies the extraordinary care and compassion of being an Atlantic Health nurse.”

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System has a long-standing tradition of providing exceptional patient outcomes and experiences. Home to seven award-winning hospitals including Morristown Medical Center, the number one hospital in NJ according to U.S. News & World Report, Castle Connolly and Newsweek’s World’s Best Hospitals, the system has been ranked first in New Jersey in consumer preference by Monigle and first among health systems in New Jersey as a “best workplace” by both Modern Healthcare and Fortune Magazine.

Many of the system’s programs have received national accolades and designations, including Morristown Medical Center’s Cardiology and Heart Surgery program ranked among the top 30 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report; Morristown Medical Center’s Orthopedics program ranked among the top 35 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and Atlantic Health System’s Cancer Care program, New Jersey’s first and only National Cancer Institute National Community Oncology Research Program. Additionally, Atlantic Health System Neuroscience at Overlook Medical Center, working with Atlantic Mobile Health, was the first in the nation to deploy and use portable Telestroke technology in ambulances for routine pre-hospital assessment of stroke patients.

Powered by a passionate workforce of 17,000 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System serves more than half of the state of New Jersey, including 11 counties and 4.9 million people. The system provides care for the full continuum of health needs across a wide array of settings, including Atlantic Medical Group, one of the largest multi-specialty practices in New Jersey with more than 1,000 physicians and providers, 12 urgent care centers, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, Atlantic Home Care and Hospice and Atlantic Anywhere’s Virtual Visits. Facilitating connections between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.

With a clear sense of purpose and an unparalleled culture, Atlantic Health System attracts top leaders in the field of health care, from CEO Brian Gragnolati, who was Chairman of the American Hospital Association in 2019, to the numerous team members who serve as leaders across national clinical associations and research entities.