East Texan tells of tragic loss, strives to help others

By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The CDC says that every 20 minutes, an infant is still-born in America. Mothers that lose a child say they are left with a feeling of emptiness and search for ways to remember their baby.

"My husband and I lost our first little boy to a Hyaline Membrane disease," said Melba Neill. "He lived three days. 18 months later, we had twin boys and they died."

Melba lives each day remembering her three babies that died shortly after birth.

"You carry that baby for nine months, and it is a part of you for nine months, and there is a big hole when you fill a nursery and you go home, and there is no baby to put in that bed," said Melba.

And, she was left searching for something else. She couldn't find burial clothes for her infants.

"You just leave with empty arms," said Melba.

Thanks to Angel Layettes, mother's like Melba, who experience a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss of a child, can go home with a memory in hand.

"It consists of a gown and a blanket and one of our keepsake hearts that we do," said Sharon Sikes,who founded Angel Layettes six years ago.

What started in her attic has expanded into this new facility, providing Layettes to nearly 20 hospitals in Texas and Oklahoma for no charge.

"The need is greater than we are able to keep up with, and the requests are greater right now," said Sikes.

The charity relies solely on contributions and volunteers, so people like Melba, who decided to give up a little of her time and talents, can help others fill that hole.

"She (a mother) can at least go home with a memory heart that she can clutch and hang on to and say, 'My baby did live. My baby was alive, even if it was just inside of me. He was here. She was here,'" said Melba.

The goal is to stitch together one heart at a time. If you would like to find out more about Angel Layettes and how you can help, click here.

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