Nicole and Bill Dice squeezed a lifetime of memories into the 89 minutes they had with their son Daniel.
They sang him “Happy Birthday,” said their daily prayers and gave him countless hugs and kisses.
After Daniel’s death of fatal dwarfism shortly after his birth on Nov. 6, 2015, his parents stayed with him for four days in the hospital.
It was the only time they would ever have to hold their baby. They knew when they left, they would have to leave him there.
“We don’t have any regrets because we know that we did everything we possibly could to provide comfort and love for our child. All Daniel ever knew was love,” said Nicole Dice, 34.
The Dices of Uniontown now are hoping to provide the same feeling of comfort to other parents who lose their babies.
On Feb. 19, the Dices donated a CuddleCot to Allegheny Health Network’s Jefferson Hospital. CuddleCots are baskets with pads that keep a baby’s body cool after he or she has died to give parents more time with their child. CuddleCots are made by a U.K.-based company called Flexmort. The Dices estimate one CuddleCot costs just under $3,000.
At Jefferson Hospital’s Labor and Delivery Center, about 1,000 babies are born every year. On average, three babies die each year, said Dr. David Logan, director of labor and delivery.
CuddleCots help preserve the baby so it looks more like him or herself while parents grieve, Logan said.
At Jefferson Hospital, it’s up to each parent how long they stay with their baby. Some stay for a couple of hours. Others stay for days, said Belinda Callaghan, director of nursing for women and infant services.
“This will provide so much comfort for them if we can let them know that their baby is going to remain pretty much intact and just look like it’s sleeping,” she said.
This is the sixth CuddleCot the Dices have donated to a hospital since Daniel’s death. They donated the first to Uniontown Hospital, where Daniel was born. Others were donated to the Washington Hospital, Washington Health System Greene Hospital, J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital and St. Clair Hospital.
They formed a nonprofit, Loving Daniel, which raises funds to distribute CuddleCots to community hospitals across the region, and provides support for parents who lose their babies.
They see the donations as a way to keep Daniel’s memory alive. As they donate each CuddleCot, the Dices tell Daniel’s story. A picture of him sits on the table as they talk and his name, along with a special message, is inscribed on the box of each cooling system.
The Dices knew from about 20 weeks into Nicole’s pregnancy that Daniel might not survive. He had Type II Thanatophoric Dysplasia, a form of fatal dwarfism.
The parents were given the option to terminate the pregnancy, but Nicole said she couldn’t do it. She trusted that God was in charge, she said.
Daniel, who was not expected to make it to birth, was born at 36 weeks via C-Section.
“He was a strong, strong little boy,” she said. “Against all odds, here he was.”
The Dices still hold on closely to the time they spent with Daniel.
Bill Dice, 36, watched football with his firstborn son. They watched Mass as a family.
“With everything that we did, we held him,” Bill said.
The Dices had a rainbow baby, Manny, who is a year and a half.
As the Dices made their most recent CuddleCot donation, Manny ran around Jefferson Hospital carrying Daniel’s picture, bringing smiles to his parents’ faces as they shared his brother’s story.