Olivia Czarnecki has been an RN in the NICU and in postpartum departments at UCHealth. Last year was the first time she had to run a code on an infant under her care. The infant did not survive, and it was an experience that forced Czarnecki to reevaluate how she manages her mental health.
Throughout the baby’s short life and after its death, Czarnecki held the baby several times. Over the next few weeks, she said she could not get the weight of the baby off her mind.
“I would dream about her weight and the number was just stuck there. I couldn’t forget it,” Czarnecki said. “I couldn’t get rid of that feeling of holding her.”
For Czarnecki, the experience was overwhelming to the point she drafted a resignation letter but procrastinated turning it in. She wasn’t sure she could experience another loss. Her grief was profound, however, she knew the parents were experiencing something far worse.
Determined to find a way to cope with her feelings and to help the family, Czarnecki scoured the internet in hopes of finding a solution.
A nurse whom Czarnecki used to work with used to bring crochet projects to work with her on the night shift. It was a skill Czarnecki had tried but didn’t feel she was good at. She asked the nurse to teach her and her skills improved. However, she didn’t like to make blankets, she preferred making cute animals.
During her internet search, Czarnecki came across a post in a crochet group where someone asked for directions on how to add weight to a crochet project.
“That’s when I realized this is something I knew that I could do to help these families,” she said.
Czarnecki has made five crocheted bears for families who have lost babies at Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont. Each bear takes about 12 hours to make.
“I personally do it for selfish reasons. It is my way to cope with the death of a baby. I was at a loss for what to do for the family. This was just my way of doing more for them than saying ‘I’m sorry,’” Czarnecki said.