A window into neo-natal intensive care

Ridgefield mother shares her experience with premature child

By Elisa Williams, Columbian staff writer

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Ridgefield mother shares her experience with premature child

Mitchell Cameron weighed only 1 pound, 9 ounces when he was born about four months early in 2004. He struggled to stay alive for nearly two months in the neo-natal intensive care unit at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

In his brief life, Mitchell had an impact.

His struggle inspired his mother, Kristy Cameron of Ridgefield, to reach out to other families with premature babies. “I wanted to do something that would help someone else,” she said.

After Mitchell was born, Kristy started keeping a journal to help process what her family was going through. She also sent frequent e-mail updates to family and friends.

The writing helped her cope with the fact that she had no other mothers to talk to who had gone through the same fears, frustrations and difficult choices. When she looked for books to help her learn more about the care a premature baby needs, all she found were medical journals. There were some blog posts online, but she couldn’t find anything that was comprehensive.

“When you go through something like this, you want to talk to someone who has been through the same experience,” Kristy, 43, said. To her, the neo-natal intensive care unit felt like a completely different culture with its own language.

After Mitchell died, Kristy decided to use the notes in her journal and the e-mails to write a book to help other parents.

“It just sort of poured out of me,” she said.

The self-published book, “Mitchell’s Gift,” offers a personal perspective on what it’s like to navigate the neo-natal intensive care unit and cope with the emotional struggles of giving birth to a premature baby. It offers tips based on what Kristy and her husband John Cameron found to be helpful, including taking time to create momentoes for Mitchell’s brother and sister. At the back of the book is a glossary of terms that Kristy believes many parents of premature babies will hear.

The book, which costs $12, is available through her Web site, www.mitchellsgift.com as well as amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. She said she’s sold about 100 copies to date and all proceeds go to the March of Dimes.

Kristy said she is also working with Legacy Emanuel hospital to set up a support network to link new parents with a premature baby to those who have been down the same path.

Producing a book was therapeutic, Kristy said. “As tragic of a situation that it is, I feel he’s touched so many lives,” Kristy said.