Retired Kindergarten teacher volunteers to cuddle babies at Abington Hospital

ABINGTON, Pa. (WPVI) -- Everybody needs a hug now and then, but newborns need cuddling in order to thrive.

When parents or nurses require a break or an infant just needs to be held, Evelyn Mandel is one of the designated cuddlers at Abington Hospital.

"I was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years and loved working with small children. I got a lot of satisfaction from seeing them grow," she said.

When Abington Hospital put out the call for volunteers, Evelyn knew she'd found her happy place.

"I saw that and said that's what I want to do when I retire," she said.

There are medical reasons that babies need cuddling.

"Sometimes the babies fail to thrive if they don't have that cuddling, so when babies are cuddled they really shoot up and do a lot better," said Dr. Denise Ellison, Program Coordinator Of Newborn Nursery Services.

"It really does decrease their heart rate, decreases their blood pressure, decreases anxiety. It allows them to grow and feed and thrive over long term," said Dr. Eddie Chang, Chief of Neonatology.

The crucial role of volunteers like Evelyn is not lost on Drs. Chang and Ellison.

"We would not be able to do as well as we do without volunteer support," said Dr. Ellison.

"They are seen by parents as advocates for their babies. When I see Evelyn, I think of her as a colleague and someone who can teach me a thing or two," said Dr. Chang.

"I sing to them, I talk to them, I lay them on my chest and pat them - whatever works, but it always works. You couldn't find something that's more rewarding than this," said Evelyn.

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