When Samuel Cunningham, an enthusiastic Boy Scout, started planning what he needed to do to become an Eagle Scout, he knew he wanted to give back to the Rush University Medical Center neonatal intensive care unit.
Samuel was born prematurely at just 23 weeks and six days. Weighing only 1 pound and 3/12 ounces, he fought to overcome many obstacles while receiving care in the NICU. He underwent multiple surgeries during this time, including heart surgery and a bilateral hernia repair. Even after he was healthy enough for his parents to bring him home, he made multiple return visits to the Medical Center to get care for breathing problems during the first year of his life.
Now, at age 15, Samuel is a healthy kid who loves participating in the Boy Scout program and is working to achieve the highest rank of Eagle Scout. To reach this level, Samuel had to complete an Eagle Scout project.
Because of the great care he had received at the Medical Center during the early stages of his life, Samuel wanted to do something for the babies receiving care there today. As Samuel began to plan this project, he had a clear idea of what to do.
When Samuel was being cared for in the NICU, he was given a quilted baby blanket, one he still has today. He decided the best way for him to give back to the NICU was to donate quilted blankets to be given to the babies there now.
After Samuel collected 100 blankets, he was ready to make his donation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Samuel and the NICU staff had to create a plan for a safe donation. To make the donation as safe as possible, he washed each blanket and packaged them individually. In early October, he brought the blankets to the Medical Center campus, delivering them safely to NICU staff outside the hospital. After accepting the donation, NICU staff quarantined the blankets for 14 days to ensure they were safe to hand out to NICU babies. Staff started giving blankets to NICU babies during the first week of November.
Because of the love, care and support of the Rush NICU staff, Samuel was able fight for his life and win. His baby blanket from Rush is a comforting reminder of how far he has come and the great life he now gets to live. The blankets Samuel donated to the Rush NICU one day will be a similarly comforting reminder to babies born prematurely as they continue to grow, learn and live healthy lives.