Family supports others after the loss of a child

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05/02/2024

Flynn Helen Roush cooling cradle

Their baby girl was “born sleeping” one year ago, but Brandon and Shayla Roush channel their grief in a positive way.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Flynn Helen Roush should have celebrated her first birthday this week. But the little girl who was “born sleeping” April 30, 2023, was still present in her own way during a celebration at IU Health North Hospital recently.

Flynn Helen Roush cooling cradle

Whether it was in the daisy cookies (representing April birthdays), the rainbow-accented bears or the tiny pink heart mementos, the idea was to honor Flynn.

Flynn’s parents, Shayla and Brandon Roush, and her three siblings came together with a crowd of nurses, therapists, physicians, friends and family recently to present a specially designed cradle for use in the hospital’s maternity unit for babies who are stillborn or too small to survive.

Flynn Helen Roush cooling cradle

The “caring cradle,” designed to keep babies who have passed at a certain temperature for hours or days, allows parents to have more time with their child to say goodbye.

Shayla Roush said she used a similar type of cradle at North after her daughter was stillborn one year ago.

“I got to paint her nails, I got to rock her and get pictures with family members,” Roush said. “We got to have moments that we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t been able to use something similar to this.”

Flynn Helen Roush cooling cradle

It was on New Year’s Eve that Roush decided she wanted to raise money to purchase a more high-tech cooling cradle for North, but she’s not stopping there. She is channeling her grief in other ways, including supporting the Seasons Perinatal Bereavement program at the hospital, as well as Riley Grief Services, and putting together “angel boxes” for other bereaved moms.

“Thank you to everyone who made this possible as a way to honor Flynn,” Roush told the assembled crowd.

Sarah Wenzel, a labor and delivery nurse who has run the bereavement program at North since 2019, said the cradle will allow families “to keep their angel babies with them during their stay.”

“Shayla, you are so strong and so selfless for taking something so tragic and turning it into something so beautiful. Flynn is definitely going to have a lasting legacy through this gift.”

Once families leave the hospital, they are connected with Riley Grief and Bereavement Services, which offers support for as long as they need it, said Cassie Dobbs, program coordinator and former Riley art therapist.

“What we do complements what bereavement coordinators do at North and Downtown,” Dobbs said. “They support families while inpatient in the beginning stages of grief and loss. Our role is to support them in their lifelong journey of grief. It can be months or years. There is no time frame.”

Roush and her family have participated in art therapy, a grief retreat and other program services, which have provided a measure of healing.

“I’ve had a safe place to just grieve,” Roush said. “It’s nice to have a community.”

Click here to learn more and/or to support bereavement services at Riley.

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org