Friends and families gathered at West Penn Hospital’s atrium, the Wintergarden, on Sunday for a special ceremony to commemorate the loss of a child.
During the event, the families participated in the potting of a plant to take home in memory of their child. They also listened to inspirational readings and music in a serene atmosphere. The event culminated with the release of the butterflies.
Lauren McLean, 28, a stylist at the Geno Levi Salon, 4000 Washington Rd., was one of the parents who experienced such a loss.
In 2010, McLean, when she was 19 weeks pregnant, received a distressing phone call. McLean said, “There was a problem with the ultrasound.”
The child had developed cysts on his kidneys and had low amniotic fluid surrounding him. McLean, and her husband Jason, 28, learned that their child had developed ARPKD (autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease). They were told the child might not survive the pregnancy.
The doctor gave her an opportunity to terminate the fetus, but McLean opted to continue with her high risk pregnancy.
On March 13, 2010, six weeks prior to her due date, Emerson Gries McLean was born. The boy only lived for three hours.
She fondly remembers the short time she spent with her child.
McLean added,”We got to hold him.”
A professional photographer from the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation, a non-profit organization (https://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org ), took pictures.
The McLeans met with West Penn Hospital’s AngelHeart Team, which presented them with a memory box.
”It had his medical bracelet, two blankets, a seashell, his footprint and some other items, all the things that Emry had worn or used while he was there in the hospital,” she said.
In 2004, the hospital formed the AngelHeart Team, a group devoted to comforting parents of a stillborn child or a child who dies shortly after birth.
The AngelHeart Team believes the grief can be made a little easier by supporting the bereaved families through such events as the Butterfly Release.
Since Emerson’s passing, the McLean’s have gone on to have two healthy children, both girls, but plan to continue to honor the memory of their first born.
McLean said, “We get a little envelope with the butterflies in them. After we get a chance to reflect and listen to a poem, we’re told when to release the butterflies. They all fly off at once.”
“Everyone’s invited to attend," she said. "My husband and I are bringing our girls. I want my daughters to know their brother.”