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Visiting Nurses Helping Infants In Crisis

The joy of bringing home a new baby is replaced by heartache and anxiety when an infant comes into the world with medical problems. The Early Show contributor Flavia Colgan introduces a nurse who makes house calls.

Neo-natal intensive care is where many tiny babies begin their lives.
As a nurse in St. Louis, Sharon Rohrbach treated newborns in crisis for 17 years. She discovered that new moms often aren't prepared for the challenges of caring for a sick baby. And that gave birth to a great idea.

"One day, I saw a baby dying in his mother's arms," Rorhbach recalls. "The mother was hysterical and she was crying and she kept saying, 'What did I do wrong?'"

Medically-fragile babies born to under-privileged moms were returning to hospitals and dying. Rohrbach says it was a wake-up call.

"The baby could have been saved had the mother known how to tell a sick baby from a well baby," she says.

So Rohrbach created a life-saving organization called Nurses for Newborns, which is reducing infant mortality through home visits.

Nurses teach new moms to care for their at-risk babies completely free of charge. The organization also donates much needed basics, like diapers and car seats.

"Nurses for Newborns has given me the opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of the other people," Rohrback says. "Having one person who believes in you, who you can call 24 hours a day, who consistently finds what you're doing right will cause these mothers to blossom and bloom."

Rohrbach says she's found her calling, saying "I think I found the reason that I'm on this Earth."

Teresa's triplets were premature. She says Robin, her visiting nurse, is a blessing. "Nothing is better than that peace of mind of knowing your child, which you brought into the world, is doing great."

Serving 5,000 desperate families a year, supplies often run low. It also takes a special kind of person to do the job.

"She has to not be afraid to go into dangerous neighborhoods, so she has to be fearless. We've had nurses chased and pecked by turkeys in the rural areas," Rohrbach adds with a laugh.

Latoya was homeless and sleeping in abandoned buildings when her little girl, Savannah, was born with sickle cell anemia.

"I thought my baby wasn't going to make it to be a year old," she said.

Thanks to Nurses for Newborns, Savannah is thriving, and Latoya is learning to read.

"I still don't know a lot of words, like some little bitty words I don't know, but if Jan's around, she helps me with it."

Rohrbach's foundation is committed to empowering moms and inspiring them to believe in themselves.

"I feel what we really bring to these families is hope," says Linda, one of the program's nurses. "We come in and we help them through to get to a better place in their life."

So what is it about this particular cause that makes people want to get up and help?

"I think the measure of a society is how well we treat our children," Rohrback says. "Everybody loves babies. Everybody has a baby in their life. Since doing this work, I feel every day like I'm so overwhelmingly blessed."

Rohrbach's Nurses for Newborns has expanded to include parts of Tennessee, but she dreams of seeing the organization go nationwide. Doctors in St. Louis say the visiting nurses are definitely saving lives and strengthening families.

Nurses for Newborns receives donations of small items, like clothes, car seats and strollers, but is desperate for cribs. Rohrback says the organization is constantly applying for grants. She must raise $8,000 a day to keep her nurses knocking on doors and saving lives.

If you'd like to help, visit Nurses for Newborns online or contact the organization at:

7259 Landowne, Suite 100
St. Louis, MO 63119
(314) 544-3433

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