4 minute read

A Rainbow Over the NICU

Generous donors provide comfort for grieving families throughout Acadiana

By George Menz | Photo: Jamie Orillion

Losing a child at birth or shortly after is an experience that no family wants to endure. The families in the NICU often face impossible choices and moments of intense pain. For Catherine and Bobby Brignac, the experience of losing their daughter motivated them to provide comfort for other families.

For some, childbirth can serve as an opportunity to give back to others in need. Premature infants and those with certain health conditions require additional care, such as incubators or surgery, which they receive in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Out of grief, gifts

“The contributions of donors have been a tremendous asset to the NICUs across Ochsner Health,” said Nancy Broadhurst, Executive Director of Ochsner Lafayette General Foundation. Among the contributors are the Brignacs, who have donated four CuddleCots to hospitals in Acadiana. CuddleCots are devices used internationally to allow parents to spend precious time with their baby when every moment counts.

“By cooling the baby, the device allows parents to spend more time with their baby before having to say goodbye,” Nancy said.

For the Brignacs, who lost their daughter Bowie Nicks in 2021, the device offered them a measure of comfort in the midst of their grief. “If we didn’t have that, then we wouldn’t have been able to spend as much time with our daughter,” Catherine said. “We found that the CuddleCot played a huge role in our grieving journey. We wanted to make sure the next family to experience this didn’t have to go without.”

“You don’t really know about a lot of things until you go through it yourself,” Catherine said. “You physically have to experience something, good or bad, before you really start to push for it, and try to make a difference.”

Sharing this grief, and offering other families the opportunity to do the same, is one of the motivating factors that led the Brignacs to establish the Rainbowie Foundation (rainbowiefoundation. org), through which they’ve donated CuddleCots to numerous hospitals, including Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center.

As Acadiana residents, their mission is to fill every Louisiana hospital with an ample supply of CuddleCots, and Ochsner LGMC was top of the list. “It was kind of a no-brainer to reach out,” Catherine said. “They have a good reputation and are well-known and liked for their friendliness.” Having built a good relationship with the company that makes CuddleCots, they hope to be able to provide the devices to hospitals across the country, and continue to spread comfort.

The Ochsner Lafayette General team with the Cuddle Cots from Catherine Brignac.From Left: Renee Delahoussaye, CNO, Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center; Nancy Broadhurst, Executive Director, Ochsner Lafayette General Foundation; Catherine Brignac, founder, Rainbowie Foundation; Leslie Ruiz, Kristen Thibodeaux, Meagan Daigle and Alexis Tregre, RNs in the Ochsner LGMC NICU.

The Ochsner Lafayette General team with the Cuddle Cots from Catherine Brignac.From Left: Renee Delahoussaye, CNO, Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center; Nancy Broadhurst, Executive Director, Ochsner Lafayette General Foundation; Catherine Brignac, founder, Rainbowie Foundation; Leslie Ruiz, Kristen Thibodeaux, Meagan Daigle and Alexis Tregre, RNs in the Ochsner LGMC NICU.

Photo: Jamie Orillion

Sharing a story and leaving a Legacy

For Catherine, being able to share her story has been a huge part of her grieving process. She hopes that others will be able to find the same comfort through shared expression. “One piece of advice I’d give anyone is: talk about it,” she said.

“Acknowledge your feelings and what’s going on. You have a right to feel those feelings and go through those emotions. Once you start talking about it, it gives everyone else confidence to talk about their experience, too.”

While she acknowledged that grief never truly goes away, she expressed gratitude for the immense support she has found and been able to provide to others. “You can find some beautiful things in it,” Catherine said. “You meet many people along the way and go through experiences you wouldn’t have gone through without grief.”

For the Brignacs, their grief fostered an amazing strength and the drive to help others overcome their own struggles. Sharing their story of unimaginable loss and providing CuddleCots for other families has helped them cope and inspired acts of great compassion. Thanks to the generosity from the Brignacs and other contributors like them, families experiencing hardship and grief will find greater support while at the same time honoring the memory of Bowie Nicks Brignac.