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Parents Request Gifts for NICU

By Staff | Dec 13, 2017

Karlie Huggins, present-day.

The holidays can be an extra-special time of year for those of us who have children in our lives. The season of giving can seem extra magical when watching our littlest loved ones witness twinkling holiday lights for the first time, or struggling to unwrap a gift that is – perhaps – bigger than they are.

Thus, this year is, undoubtedly, special for Ashley and Jason Huggins. The New Martinsville residents are proud parents of two precious little girls, four-year-old Karlie, and one-year-old Phebie. Looking at the girls’ big blue eyes and equally bright smiles, it would be hard to believe that either struggled in the beginning of her life.

Yet, each girl spent a considerable amount of her first few weeks in West Penn’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Ashley explained that Karlie was born at 31 weeks and three days. Karlie weighed three pounds, three ounces and was 16 inches long. As a result, she spent 31 days in the NICU unit.

Phebie struggled a bit more than her big sister. She was born at 29 weeks, weighing a mere two pounds and six ounces. She was a mere 12 inches long. Phebie spent a whopping 77 days in the NICU.

Phebie was officially welcomed home last year, on Dec. 11. “We had brought her home once, but she had stopped breathing and had to go to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh,” Ashley explained.

Phebie Huggins, present day.

Meanwhile, Ashley and Jason made the lengthy drive to West Penn, from New Martinsville, everyday to check on her baby girl. When in New Martinsville, Ashley’s thoughts were at West Penn, wondering about Phebie’s progress. When at West Penn, Ashley was apart from Phebie’s big sister, Karlie.

Yet, Ashley described a bit of stability in the Huggins’ otherwise unpredictable life – the care and support they found at the NICU unit.

One source of support came from an organization called Owyn’s Butterfly Kisses. This organization is made up of a team of three mothers who delivered twins prematurely. The organization’s mission is to raise money through fundraising and donations for West Penn Hospital’s NICU unit. The organization wants to provide families with support that are currently struggling to get through “the ups and downs of the NICU journey.”

Ashley recollected little tokens of support that she, and other mothers, received – such as a disposable camera.

“If Mom or Dad aren’t there and missing a milestone, it can be captured for them,” she explained.

“Every day, when Jason and I went to the hospital, there was something at the bedside table for us from a Preemie Awareness ribbon, to a gas card Those things made us feel good, because we realized we weren’t on this journey alone,” she said.

This Christmas, the Huggins are hoping to pay these kindnesses forward.

Ashley explained it best, via a recent social media post:

Our home is already filled with toys,

So we’re asking for donations for other girls and boys

It might seem a little silly to you,

But this is something we’d really like to do!

Since the NICU holds a special place in our hearts,

We’re asking for preemie sleepers to be purchased from Wal-Mart

The sleepers will be given to babies in need, and West Penn hospital will greatly appreciate your kind and thoughtful deed!

Ashley said her goal is to receive 50 sleepers and gift cards. She said she is also reaching out to local businesses – Wal-Mart Bob Evans, Domino’s, McDonald’s – for donations. So far, Subway (Riverside Plaza) has donated 50 coupons for a free six-inch sub. Paree Insurance and JC Mensore Distribution have also agreed to donate to the cause.

The Huggins will personally deliver all donations, to NICU families, the week prior to Christmas.

“People can donate preemie onesies and newborn onesies. West Penn has a step-down unit from NICU, and we can give supplies at the step-down unit as well,” Ashley said.

Ashley said that gas cards and restaurant gift cards are also appreciated. “That is what helped Jason and I the most,” she explained.

Ashley herself is the daughter of the late Jerry Bissett, and Mary Bissett, of New Martinsville. Jason is the son of Jerry and Alta Koerber, of Paden City.

As for the youngest of the Huggins crew?

“Phebie has just started crawling, and talking too! We are hitting all the milestones at one time,” Ashley proudly said.

Of Karlie, she noted, “She is in nursery school, at Little Lambs, and she just loves her little sister.”

Those who wish to donate toward the Huggins’ endeavor are asked to contact Ashley at 304-398-2206.