An agency created to help expectant parents deal with the predicted death of their newborn child is making Charlotte its national headquarters.
Perinatal ComfortCare intends to use the city as a base for training medical professionals from around the country on how to deal with parents whove been told a child will be born dead or will live only a short time.
The relocation from Greenville, S.C., represents that latest in a series of changes that have transformed what was a one-woman volunteer service into one of the countrys leading sources on perinatal hospice.
Its a model that applies the philosophy of hospice and palliative care to families facing the death of a newborn or of a child that hasnt yet been born.
Perinatal ComfortCare says its a largely a new concept in the medical world, and organizers believe moving to Charlotte positions the charity to become a national advocate for such parents.
Vince Saele, who helped establish a Johnson & Wales Universitys campus in uptown, is also credited with bringing the charity to Charlotte.
He is chair of its board and a senior consultant with Changing Our World, a New York City-based firm that provides expertise in fundraising and philanthropy.
My thinking is that Charlotte will become the hub of what we do, providing a terrific location for workshops, seminars and conferences, said Saele, a former executive with Johnson & Wales.
Focusing primarily on education allows us to take it to a new level, attracting people from across the country to share what we know. That way, they can go back and begin this work in their own community.
Currently, the charity helps families at no charge, with its all-volunteer staff working out of Ballantyne Corporate Park. Its small budget is covered by donations, officials said.
Agency CEO Tammy Tate, who has 30 years experience in high-risk obstetrics, said she came up with the idea for the charity in 2007, while working for a doctor specializing in maternal fetal medicine.
Its there that she faced young parents dealing with the death of a newborn and learned of their limited options.
Tates attempts to help them resulted in her book, The Journey of a Lifetime: A Parents Guide to Planning and Celebrating a Babys Brief Life.
We were told by multiple physicians that wed never have more than three or four parents whod need this kind of help, but that hasnt been the case, said Tate, noting the agency has already expanded beyond the Carolinas to a Florida chapter.
These families feel very abandoned, very isolated. They want people to know they gave birth to a child and it was a part of their family, even if only for 10 minutes. That was their babys life.
Saele experienced such a situation when he and his wife had a stillborn son, Christopher, in the 1960s.
I can still see his face, Saele said.
His family didnt receive the kind of help Perinatal ComfortCare now offers, which is why he has taken up the charitys cause as his own.
Among the families helped by the agency are Tom and Katie Cleary of Concord, whose son, Finn Francis, lived 30 minutes.
They learned five months into the pregnancy that he would not survive long, but that didnt make us love him any less, said Katie Cleary.
A doctor suggested they look into a perinatal program, and she found Tates agency on the Internet. Together, they came up with a birth plan based on the idea that her sons short life could make an impact.
We crammed a lot into that half-hour, said Katie. We got to give him a bath, dress him, take pictures with him and cuddled him. That time made our grief not as immense.
That was in 2010. This month, after three failed pregnancies, she gave birth to a healthy son, Declan Thomas, weighing 6 pounds, 3 ounces.