Yamile, Larry, and Zachary Jackson (Texas, USA) and the beginning of Kangaroo Care Day
by Yamile Jackson
My personal and professional purpose changed the day my son Zachary was born. I witness his life every day and there is nothing that I will ever cherish more than feeling that I have been able to make him feel loved his entire life.
I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia and when I was in college I moved to Houston, Texas to pursue my dream of becoming a PhD in ergonomics and human factors engineering which I achieved in 2000.
Before becoming a teenager in Bogotá, Kangaroo Care was in the news as a practice that was invented to help preemies. Decades later I had the joy of starting holding my son skin-to-skin one day after he was born prematurely weighing less than 2 lbs in 2001. Larry and I held Zachary 5-7 hours every day.
When he was three weeks old, Zachary survived the deluge of Tropical Storm Allison, in Houston when his life support equipment shut-down. As soon as we arrived to his bedside, I held him in kangaroo care and Larry received a crash course on how to "bag" him. He would switch every half hour with a staff member to give Zachary manual breaths.
Here is a 12 min documentary by CBS about the heroic effort of the NICU staff that saved 79 babies, including my Zachary.
In those dark hours I made a promise to Zachary that his pain and struggle to survive were not going to be in vain, and that I would dedicate my life and my education to helping babies feel loved, grow and thrive. My prayer was to be given the opportunity to do it on his behalf and not in his memory.
I was granted my wish. Zachary survived against all odds, and came home after 5 months in the NICU still very fragile but he thrived with us. Kangaroo Care saved his life and it allowed me the opportunity to, in a way, finish the pregnancy outside the womb. Holding him and using The Zaky HUG that I invented for him, provided us with a nurturing world where we became a strong family.
Here is the TNT drama movie called "14:Hours" that aired in 2005 and the baby is the story of Zachary and his incredible story of survival (notice they don't show me kangarooing Zachary because the medical advisor said "that would never happen"):
WHEN AND HOW DID THE KANGAROO CARE AWARENESS DAY STARTED?
This day is a tribute to the innocence, tenacity, perseverance, love, and hard work of every baby that we comes into our world and the parent that welcomes them. They deserve to feel loved and protected every day and parents around the world deserve to be the ones providing it for their own babies. Zachary was going to turn 10 years old and I wanted to do something special in his name.
With my work promoting The Zaky HUG in NICUs and other hospital units that care for newborns and small children, I would notice that not many moms kangarooed. We started a study about why, since the evidence of kangaroo was growing and the benefits were arguably the best way to care for babies.
I would ask the nurses "why are the parents not holding?" and many answered: "If the they ask, they can do it." but, how do moms know about it or that they they should ask? Many parents wait for the nurse to offer KC. In addition, we needed a way to raise awareness of Kangaroo Care of the staff, the administration, the parents, everyone that needs to support the practice.
Then the International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day day was born on May 15th, 2011. To give a non-threatening and fun way to raise awareness which in turn it improves the frequency, duration, and safety of the practice that changed my own life.
In addition to lack of awareness and education, the biggest roadblock for kangaroo care is safety - the baby can fall to the floor, or slide and dislodge, or moms tend to fall asleep, or it was difficult to safely do an intervention while in kangaroo care so it was sometimes not even offered. So I developed The Zaky ZAK, the only kangaroo care device in the market engineered to eliminate the roadblocks and give parents an environment that is safe, comfortable, and where they can even take a nap while supervised by another adult. Nurse can access the baby for any intervention, and moms can partially open the zipper to breastfeed or pump.
WHY MAY 15th?
Simple. It is Zachary's birthday. He is my inspiration and it would be my tribute to him. He was born between Mother's Day and Father's Day so it was perfect! Several years later I found out that May 15 is also The International Day of Families which is exactly what we are celebrating!
Oprah and Toyota celebrated my work with a 6 min video about me and the work that I do on Zachary's behalf and a grant to continue our mission. Here it is:
After working as an engineer for Fortune 135 company for over a decade in the US and England for projects around the world, Yamile founded Nurtured by Design to fulfill her promise to improve the quality of life of babies on Zachary's behalf.
She is a Latinx PhD in ergonomics and human factors engineering, is a licensed Professional Engineer in Texas, a certified Project Management Professional, and a certified Kangaroo Caregiver. Connect with her via linkedIn!
Her award winning products include The Zaky ZAK, The Zaky HUG, and The Zaky ZEN. She has received over 20 awards including Entrepreneur/Innovator of the year by the College of Engineering at the University of Houston, SBA, and was named top 20 Latino Innovators of the year by NBC Latino. Her work has also been featured in Huffington Post, Reuters, ABC, Fox, TODAY show, etc. She has spoken in TEDx, NANT, IISE, PMI, CII, among others.
Yamile lives in Sugar Land, Texas (outside Houston) with Larry and Zachary, and is blessed to have 2 step daughters Jill and Abby and their husbands Steve and Neil respectively. Yamile's 6 year old step granddaughter, Elena, is pure joy!