Jenn and Chris Swindle cherished every moment of the six days, four hours and twenty-two minutes their baby daughter, Alexandria, was alive.
Aware that Alex’s life might be short, Jenn Swindle received a Precious Prints kit from a friend at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Nursing before her daughter was born at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. It’s a small sterling silver pendant bearing Alex’s fingerprint.
“Nothing will change this feeling of loss,” Jenn Swindle said. “Nothing will take away this pain. But my pendant is a tangible memory of the life Alex lived, physically touched by my little angel. It’s a reminder that Alex was real. And some days, I just need a reminder that she was real.”
Knowing how much the Precious Prints pendant meant to her, Swindle encouraged the College of Nursing to partner with UT Medical Center to offer the pendants to other families who lose a child at that hospital.
Instructor Lynne Miller started the Precious Prints project in the College of Nursing about three years ago. Run by the Student Nurses Association, it has already provided more than 150 families with tangible reminders of their children’s short but precious lives.
The college has provided Precious Prints kits for grieving families at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital since 2012 and Parkwest Medical Center for about a year. Starting this week, the college is also providing kits for families who lose a child at UT Medical Center.
Each added hospital represents a funding commitment. Nursing students hold fundraisers and collect donations to provide the kits to local hospitals so there’s no cost to the hospital or the grieving families.
“This is a project that helps so many different groups. It provides a great service to hospitals and a real comfort to grieving families,” Miller said. “It is also great for students because they learn to give back to the community. They learn leadership and about helping people. It’s great for the university because it goes right along with our mission of creative activity, outreach, and engagement. ”
The college works with a local business, Precious Metal Prints, which makes the pendants.
One of the ways nursing students raise money for Precious Prints is through their Sprint for the Prints race. They’ve held two races, with last year’s event raising upward of $4,000. This year’s race is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on September 26.
The college keeps each partner hospital stocked with Precious Prints kits and trains nurses in how to use them. When a baby dies, nurses ask the family if they’d like a remembrance pendant. If they do, the nurses take a fingerprint of the child and mail it to the vendor, who creates the pendant and mails the finished product to the family.
College of Nursing students spent the past week at UT Medical Center, training about forty nurses in labor and delivery, the mother/baby unit, and the neonatal intensive care unit how to use Precious Prints kits.
“The hospital staff have been so welcoming and so supportive. I think they are passionate about having Precious Prints to offer families,” Miller said. “We look forward to this partnership with UT Medical Center so we can provide this special memory for families who experience this indescribable loss.”
Katherine Bolton, who chairs the Student Nurses Association philanthropy committee that raises money for Precious Prints, said 120 student nurses are directly involved in the project and the effort really highlights the art of nursing for them.
“The caring, supportive, family-centered component of nursing is a piece that is not easily taught in a book or a classroom,” she said. “Precious Prints is a way for our student nurses to invest in families and honor those patients whose lives ended too soon.
“We have seen through the years how a silver fingerprint charm can provide a tangible remembrance of a life and calm a mother’s heart. Seeing a mother touch her charm when she remembers her baby and hearing stories of the sweet time they spent together, even though it was short, has made this project turn into a passion for me,” she said. “I feel proud to be part of a university that trains up future nurses with knowledge and sends them out with passion.”
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lynne Miller (865-974-8775, email@example.com)