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Caringly-curated care packages show NICU families they’re not alone

Cooper Steinhauser entered the world on February 19, 2022, facing insurmountable odds. Born at just 25 weeks and three days, he experienced extreme prematurity and all of the complications that come with it. 

Cooper struggled with multiple adversities including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and two intraventricular hemorrhages in his brain. 

As Cooper's injuries and illness progressed, it became harder for him to fight through. Devastated, his parents, Haley and Edward Steinhauser, knew one thing for certain: they didn't want Cooper to suffer. They made the difficult decision to shift to palliative care and surrounded Cooper with love. On Wednesday, May 11, 2022, Cooper passed away “peacefully in our arms,” Haley said.

Family honors memory of son by founding the Cooper Steinhauser Foundation

In the wake of the family’s tragedy, they resolved to do something to honor his memory while helping other families who were experiencing similar challenges. They founded the Cooper Steinhauser Foundation as a result. The foundation currently operates a three-pronged program: Cooper Cares donates curated care packages for newly admitted Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) parents; Cooper Gives is a traditional monetary giving effort directed to items the hospital budget doesn't account for; and Cooper Strong advocates for crucial blood donations for NICU babies.

To support St. Joseph's Hospital in honor of Cooper, the Cooper Steinhauser Foundation donated 48 of its bags from their Cooper Cares program to the NICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Each thoughtfully curated bag includes a letter from Edward and Haley and items to make a NICU stay more comfortable, including: children’s book, NICU-appropriate baby clothing, a crocheted octopus, scented bonding hearts, also known as "lovies", stationary items and personal care items.

“When we entered the NICU, we were scared, uncertain and completely out of our comfort zone and we could have really used a support boost from others who had also been in our shoes,” Haley said. “So, we curated a care package for newly admitted NICU parents with a starter kit of all the things that were useful for us. It is our sincere hope that every parent who receives our Cooper Cares bag and reads our letter, feels a little less scared, a little more comfortable and equipped with a few helpful tips to start their NICU journey off on the right foot.”

Remarkable act of kindness and generosity 

Terri Hoffman, president of St. Joseph’s Foundation, said the donation from the Steinhausers makes a meaningful difference to NICU families. 

“The donation from the Steinhausers is a remarkable act of kindness and generosity to the families experiencing a NICU stay at St. Joseph's,” she said. “It touches so many lives.”

Haley said the donation was their honor and a way of expressing their deep gratitude to the care team at St. Joseph’s.

“Our NICU staff became the family we never knew we needed. From doctors to nurses to custodial staff to respiratory therapists – and everyone else in between – they truly fostered our NICU experience and without them, we would have been lost,” she said.

Haley said the foundation, which was founded in 2022, is just getting started with the work they hope to accomplish in helping NICUs and the families who need them. She likes to think that even though Cooper passed away young, but “his impact on the world is just beginning.”

Life is precious and should never be taken for granted

“Our story didn't end the way we ever dreamed it would or even saw coming so it is our sincere hope to help create a positive NICU experience that is supportive of patients and families so that there can be positive outcomes for babies in memory of our Cooper,” she said. “So, whether you've been alive for 82 years or 82 days, be sure to give your loved ones a big hug and tell them you love them. Life is precious and should never be taken for granted!”

If you are interested in supporting the NICU at St. Joseph’s in support of premature infants and their families, please contact St. Joseph’s Foundation at 602.406.1038 or donate here.

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