Heartstrings & Angel Wings blessing for ‘preemies’

Nineteen tiny patients at Lafayette General Medical Center celebrated their first Valentine’s Day clad in matching outfits cute enough to pull anyone’s heartstrings.

The outfits, along with blankets and covers for incubator units, were donated by Heartstrings & Angel Wings, a charity group that provides clothing and other handmade items for premature babies.

“They made specific Valentine’s Day outfits for us today,” said Patrice Webb, nurse manager in the medical center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“They made some matching hats with the little crossover outfits that they always make us,” Webb said, “but these have heart checks and teddy bears with hearts, definitely Valentine-holiday geared.”

One tiny patient, 53-day-old Ana Leonard, lay covered by a blanket that read, “My First Valentine’s Day.”

Twin brothers Chance and Grant Blanchard, born on Jan. 12, wore matching shirts with hearts and teddy bears. Tonia Blanchard, mother of the 33-day-old twins, said she had her sons at 27 weeks and four days.

“Actually before this happened and we had preemies, I would buy raffle tickets or something to donate to Heartstrings & Angel Wings,” Blanchard said. “I thought it was something really awesome that they did, and then once my preemies started getting the clothes and hats, it had a whole new meaning to me.”

Clothes for preemies and “micro preemies,” babies born under 5 pounds, can be difficult to find and expensive to buy, Webb said, so Heartstrings & Angel Wings provides clothing to relieve a little stress from the parents.

“We’ve got the little T-shirts that the hospital supplies, and you can buy baby clothes, but we didn’t have any clothes that would work if a baby still had an IV line in,” Webb said. “So they found this (Heartstrings & Angel Wings) website, and they put together their own little section — their own little working group of ladies.”

The women meet regularly and have sewing parties, she said, where they make the outfits and other items.

They also visit the NICU to see how the clothes fit and to ask nurses for feedback.

Not only do the NICU’s babies get to dress up for Valentine’s Day, but they also have outfits for Christmas, Easter, Halloween and the Fourth of July.

“Pretty much anything we need, they try to make it for us,” Webb said. “They’re a fine group of ladies.”

Along with clothing, the organization makes blankets in different patterns to put in each of the babies’ incubator units.

“It needs to be cute so when the family comes in, they see their baby in as normal of an environment as they can possibly be in,” Webb said.

Heartstrings & Angel Wings raises money through an annual gumbo cook-off, which will be held in Henderson on March 8 this year.

The charity began six years ago in honor of Heath Logan, a premature baby from Breaux Bridge who spent three months in the NICU. His family members formed Heartstrings & Angel Wings when they realized a need for preemie and micro preemie clothing.

“I can tell you that the Heartstrings & Angel Wings ladies do this absolutely out of love for premature babies because they lived it,” Webb said. “That family lived it. They appreciated what was done for them, and they feel like they need to give back.”