Local News

Lap Volunteers Making A Difference For Babies At Duke Nursery

Posted October 10, 2001

— Sometimes nothing can beat the soothing power of touch, especially with premature babies. Something as simple as rubbing their cheek or singing has a powerful impact on their development and health. Lap volunteers are making a big difference to some of the smallest patients at Duke.

Olivia D'Ottavio does not even weigh 2 pounds yet. Just like all the other babies in Duke's Intensive Care Nursery, she needs extra-special attention. When her parents cannot be there, lap volunteers like Susan Ormsbee pull up a chair to help.

Ormsbee, a PhD medical student at Duke, says when she is not studying, chances are she is in the nursery.

Lap volunteers visit as often as they want. Nurses train them so they know how to hold the babies and maneuver around all the tubes and beeping machinery.

"It is a little bit intimidating. You have to sort of get used to the apparatus and what's going on," Ormsbee said. "You smile, you coo, talk, tell them nonsense."

Sherry D'Ottavio tries to visit her daughter as much as possible, but when work or family obligations come up, she is glad the lap volunteers are there.

"The more she can be held, the better she is," she said.

Most lap volunteers visit the nursery several times a week staying around two to three hours depending on their schedule and how the baby they have been assigned to is doing.

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