Volunteer cuddles NICU babies at Winnie Palmer Hospital

Pat Jordan volunteers thousands of hours helping sick newborns

ORLANDO, Fla. – For some, caring is a warm welcome, a hand to hold or even a snuggle.

But for Patricia "Pat" Jordan, cuddling isn't just an act of kindness, it's a calling.

"You just let him know it's going to be OK," Jordan said.

Jordan has six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, but the babies most people see in her arms aren't hers.

"I love my NICU, I love my babies, I love my nurses, I love my doctors, and I just have a driving ambition," Jordan said. "So I'm here three, four days a week, and I come in before seven and I leave usually around 4:30-5 o'clock, sometimes later."

The babies she cares for are some of the youngest patients inside the neonatal intensive care unit at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. Staff in the unit told News 6 that Jordan spends enough time to be a member of the staff, but she's not, she's a volunteer.

She called the work her joy, but said it's not always easy.

"It's very emotional, and I cry a lot up here, I guess they kind of call me the crier of the unit," Jordan said, as tears filled her eyes.

Those tears are for the babies who struggle, the babies who fight for their lives from their very first breath.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) affects around 150 babies born at Winnie Palmer Hospital per year, caused by opioids.

"It's becoming a bigger problem all across the state and all across the country," said Dr. Douglas Hardy, MD clinical director of the level 3 NICU at Winnie Palmer Hospital, "These systems, you know, mom's system absorbs the opioids and then they get sent to the babies and the babies then have to go through what's very similar to a withdrawal."

Hardy said in severe cases, they have to treat babies with NAS with more drugs. Volunteers like Jordan help soothe and care for the babies when their parents cannot be at the hospital.

"Just being held by a volunteer is a tremendous improvement, it keeps the babies calm, and does a lot of things that ultimately benefit the baby's care and if we can keep them calm then we don't have to use drugs," Hardy said.

"I talk to them, and I hum to them, and I sing to them, and they don't seem to object most of the time," Jordan said.

Jordan's hope for the newborns is simple.

"I want them to feel happy, like my grandchildren are happy," Jordan said.

And whether it's singing or shedding a few tears, Jordan will always be known for her cuddling.

"As long as they'll have me," Jordan said.

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