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“Nothing healed my soul, body, and mind than being connected by touch with Zach.”
Our touch turned struggle into possibilities.
When Larry and I welcomed our son Zachary 12 weeks prematurely and weighing a bit less than 2 lbs, life changed. It was 2001 and took a leave of absence from my job to be with Zach all day every day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Houston, Texas. However, we felt the same impotence, worry, and sadness that millions of parents feel every night when it was time to leave the hospital without our baby.
A nurse told me that preemies usually grow with an aversion to touch and I could not imagine providing Zach a life of isolation evading human touch. It became my mission to teach him that not all touch was followed by pain, and touch connected us so it could be healing and loving.
When Zach was 3 weeks old, Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston, TX leaving the hospital and life-support equipment powerless. The Neonatal Intensive Care unit (NICU) staff and us kept Zach alive “by touch” for 9 hours until he was evacuated to another hospital. I held him skin to skin to keep him warm and calm, and Larry received a crash course on "bagging" taking turns with the staff giving him manual breaths. In those dark hours i promised Zachary that his pain and struggle to survive were not going to be in vain and The Zaky is my way to keep true to that promise.
I applied my 4 engineering degrees, over a decade of work experience, and my newly found maternal instinct to allow us to be "in touch" even when we weren't. I made the first version of The Zaky HUG, slept with it to impregnate our scent so he would always feel us always present. It also made it easier for me to leave him in the NICU. The staff also used it as a tool to position him and his equipment and soon noticed he was calmer and was sleeping better at night when i wasn't there, and sleep is when the brain grows.
After a couple of years after Zach was home i noticed that Kangaroo Care (holding a baby skin to skin, chest to chest) was not practiced in NICUs and I wanted to know why. I developed The Zaky ZAK, a device engineered to reduce errors and the risks that arise from taking a baby out of the bed or incubator. By providing safety, comfort, and quiet and easy access at all times for breastfeeding and interventions, then the kangaroo care sessions are prolonged during Delivery, C-Section, Post Partum, NICU, PICU, etc.
I also identified that awareness and education about kangaroo care was lacking so I started the International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day on Zachary's 10th birthday and now it is celebrated in every continent.
Research proves our intuition right. Touch changes everything: from a newborn’s brain to an adult’s heart.
I started Nurtured by Design, on behalf of Zachary, and we are the only company that "have been there", and applies ergonomics, technology, safety, and risk management to research and develop devices that empower babies and parents to thrive like we did.
The Zaky® is now used in hospital units that want to use non-pharmacologic interventions to increase safety, calm babies, and promote their sleep so they can support the physical, psychological, physiological, and neurological development around the clock: The Zaky HUG® on the bed or in the incubator, The Zaky ZAK® while holding skin to skin or clothed, The Zaky ZEN® for an organic and wellness experience, and The Zaky® mobile app to count what counts.
Yamile Jackson, PhD, PE, PMP
CEO, Nurtured by Design
PhD Ergonomics and Safety Engineering
Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas
Certified Project Management Professional
Certified Trauma Informed Professional
Certified Professional Kangaroo Caregiver
CBS made a documentary of the evacuation of the hospital and Zachary's story of survival. That dark day gave reason for Nurtured by Design.
TNT made the movie "14:Hours" inspired on the evacuation and Zach’s story of survival.
In the movie, Zachary is "baby Jeremy", Yamile is "Amelia", and my husband Larry is "Gary".