News: Neillsville - Local Mom Donates Breast (Jan 2019)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 12/11/2019
Local Mom’s Story of Donating Breast Milk After Losing Son Goes Viral
Lee and Sierra Strangfeld are shown here with their daughter, Porter, and a photo of their son Samuel, who was only on earth for a short time. The couple is starting a non-profit in Samuel’s honor. Submitted photo
By Valorie Brecht
From across the country to across the world, a story from small-town in Wisconsin has gone farther than one mother could have ever imagined.
Earlier this year, Sierra Strangfeld of Christie became pregnant with her and her husband’s second-born, Samuel. About 25 weeks into the pregnancy she found out that Samuel was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 (T18), a rare condition that caused life-threatening developmental defects.
Lee and Sierra Strangfeld spend time with their newborn son, Samuel. Their son only lived a few hours after birth because of a syndrome known as Trisomy 18, which affects babies in approximately one in 6,000 live births. Submitted photo
Samuel was born by C-section Sept. 4. Sierra and her husband, Lee, had here hours with him before he passed away.
Christie woman Sierra Strangfeld donated about 500 ounces of breast milk to the local Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Her story went viral, with more than 6,000 likes, and was picked up by news outlets nationally and internationally.
Before Samuel passed away, Sierra made the decision to pump and donate her breast milk to Marshfield Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), to help the infants there. Since Sierra’s daughter had received donated milk for more than six months after she was born, Sierra wanted to give back to others in the same way.
“Everyone has a different grieving process … but for me it was healing to pump milk to donate,” said Sierra.
She pumped for 63 days.
“I actually pumped in the parking lot the morning before his funeral and pumped right after his funeral,” she said. “I felt like it was the only thing left physically connecting him to me.”
On Nov. 13, Sierra donated almost 500 ounces of milk she had pumped. She made sure her milk was safe to donate before doing so.
“I couldn’t save Samuel’s life, but maybe I could save another baby’s life,” Sierra wrote in a Facebook post that day. “Today [Samuel’s] due date, I donated my milk to the NICU milk banks for the first and last time. Walking through the hallways was just another step in healing. And I know (because I felt him), that Samuel was there with me.”
“Sierra never could have expected what happened next.
“I thought our story was done after the Facebook post, but I was wrong,” she said.
People started sharing Sierra’s story online and it quickly went viral, garnering more than 24,000 likes and more than 6,000 shares. Someone from Good Morning America commented on Sierra’s Facebook post, asking if she would be interested in doing a story. After Good Morning America posted an article about Sierra on its website, media outlets picked up on it.
“I’ve had 15 different news reporters contact me about it,” said Sierra. “[The publicity] has been keeping my mind busy; it’s a good distraction.”
She did two live news broadcasts through telecom interviews with stations in Chicago, IL and Florida. Sierra also did TV interviews with WEAU 13 News out of Eau Claire and KARE 11 out of Minneapolis. News reporters from as far away as Spain and India contacted her asking her permission to share her story.
People from all around the world have commented on Sierra’s initial Facebook post. She has had comments from people in Australia, India, Iraq, Poland, the United Kingdom, Peru and Mexico.
“I cannot even put into words how I feel about all the things happening,” Sierra wrote on Facebook a week after her initial post. “I [had] said, ‘I promise the world will know Samuel’s name.’ I did not know when; I didn’t know how. But that was out promise to him. Now my inbox is full of news companies wanting to do interviews. … This isn’t my story. This is Samuel’s story. He is telling it through every like, share, and broadcast.”
Sierra said the comments from people online have been overwhelmingly positive.
“I get a lot of comments like, ‘Not all heroes wear capes.’ I do not feel like a hero, but a lot of NICU moms whose babies have needed breast milk while they were in the NICU have reached out and said how important it was,” she said.
Sierra has connected with many other T18 parents, as well as moms who lost their infants because of some other reason and chose to donate their breast milk.
Sierra has gotten a few negative comments but has taken them in stride.
“There comments just remind me exactly why we want to share our story – to educate, to inform [and] to bring awareness,” she wrote.
Sierra has several initiatives planned to bring awareness to Trisomy 18 and further the care of babies staying in the NICU. She and her husband have set up a fund for scholarships for graduating seniors planning to work in obstetrics and gynecology, labor and delivery, the NICU, social work or a related field.
Sierra and Lee are working on establishing a non-profit, “Smiling for Samuel,” to help families with kids that have T18.
About half of babies with T18 who are carried full-term are stillborn. Of those that survive, less than 10 percent make it to their first birthday.
“With T18, a funeral is an unexpected expense, so we would like to be able to help families out with that or other needs they might have,” said Sierra.
In the short term, the first thing Sierra would like to do is have a memorial statue erected in the Neillsville City Cemetery, in the corner where the babies are buried.
“We had a family plot where Samuel was buried, but some people don’t have that. It would be a place for mom’s that have lost an infant to go and mourn, especially if they don’t have a tombstone. It would be place to leave flowers,” said Sierra.
She would also like to eventually plan community events. Both Marshfield and Eau Claire have infant loss remembrance walks. Sierra would like to bring something like that closer to home, especially for the women who have lost children due to miscarriage, stillbirth or health conditions that caused them to pass away shortly after birth.
To contribute and help make some of these dreams a reality, people may visit bonfire.com/smiles-for-samuel and purchase apparel in memory of Samuel.
People may send donations for the scholarship fund at “Smiling for Samuel,” c/o Simplicity Credit Union, 113 W. Division Street, Neillsville, WI 54456.
Sierra said she has appreciated the support of the community, including local businesses, throughout her journey.
She is glad that some good has come out of a tragic situation.
“It shows you that good does come with the bad.”
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