May 2012

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work to inspire Someone You Should Know: Melissa Terrill Helping families remember the littlest lives By Elishah Oesch Losing a baby is heartbreaking for any family. But sadly, it happens more often than many realize. In fact, one in four mothers experi- ences a miscarriage in her lifetime, and every year in the U.S. ap- proximately two million women experience pregnancy loss of some kind. But those are just facts. One local woman knows first-hand the sorrow that comes with losing not one, but two babies. Melissa Terrill lost her baby girl, Mikayla, in June of 2010. Mi- kayla was born prematurely at 24 weeks, six days. She weighed a mere 1 pound, 5.5 ounces; just small enough to fit in the palm of her parents' hands. Mikayla lived for only two days, and then became what her mother now affectionately calls an angel. Terrill was devastated by the loss. She describes it as "the most shocking thing I think a person can experience." But some time later, Terrill and her husband were once again confronted with the pain of losing their son, Chase, after a miscarriage. The loss of a small life, both born or unborn, is something Terrill doesn't distin- guish from one another. "The feelings you experience from both of those [tragedies] are actually very similar," she explains. After some time for reflection, and help from family, faith, and friends, Terrill decided to turn her grief into action. Terrill looked back at her own experience in her hospital's NICU—the neonatal intensive care unit for newborns—and realized that despite the level of care they received, there were many things she needed and questions she had that went unattended or unanswered. So she set out to change that for other mothers having the same experience and founded the nonprofit organization, Mikayla's Grace. Dedi- cated to providing NICU packages for families of premature babies and Angel Memory Boxes to families that lose a baby at the hospi- tal, it's Terrill's way of easing the pain and fear that accompanies either situation. The NICU packages offer items for both parents and baby, in- cluding blankets, stuffed bears, a camera, and creature comforts for mom such as lotion. She hopes to one day include useful items such as restaurant gift cards and gas cards for parents who have to make daily treks to the hospital. The Angel Memory Boxes include mementos such as a candle hands and feet," Terrill describes. With each kit, Terrill has one goal: "[To] make sure that no parent "[It's] a little 3-D casting kit to make 3-D images of your baby's leaves the hospital without having those things to remember their babies by," she says. Each packet also contains information that Terrill knows is nec- do you go through that process?" Terrill asks. Mikayla's Grace helps answer those questions and, if nothing else, provides the information to help bereaved parents through the unimaginable. Terrill says nothing can ever ease the pain of losing a baby, in- essary after the loss of a child: Pamphlets on what to do, where to find support and how to plan a funeral should a baby die. "You never think that you're going to have to plan a funeral. How cluding her own, but through Mikayla's Grace, she's doing what she can to help others going through what she has. "Holding onto those memories and having those memories like and blanket or a poem and a memory book. It's a somber package she puts together, knowing how much these things can mean to a family in need. Terrill is also careful to add one special addition that offers a way for parents to always hang on to a special part of their baby. Nonprofit Profile: Mikayla's Grace What it is: A Madison-area nonprofit working to support families with a baby in the NICU and those who experi- ence the death of an infant. 38 BRAVA Magazine What they do: Offer care packages to help parents dur- ing a child's hospital stay, as well as memory boxes to help preserve a child's memory. May 2012 How you can help: Both mon- etary and item donations are accepted. See a list of needed items online. Upcoming events: Fundraising takes place year round, but each October the group honors Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. How to get involved: Visit or find the organization on Facebook. Elishah Oesch is co-anchor of WKOW 27's Wake Up Wisconsin. Find more about Terrill on the Someone You Should Know page at ••• a blanket and start to realize how important those things are," she says. Photo by Tyler Robbins

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