Grateful for the help

Hailey’s Hope Foundation’s benefit to help families with premature and critically ill babies set for Saturday


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  • The Gillman twins, only hours after their birth in October 2010.




  • The twins’ growth and development is miraculous to the Gillmans, considering Helen and Elizabeth were born at 25 weeks weighing only 1 lb. 14 oz. and 1 lb. 11 oz., respectively.




  • Helen, left, and Elizabeth Gillman look like they are ready to get involved with some outdoor mischief.




— Zachary Gillman always wanted to be surrounded by women in his life.

His wish came true.

He and wife Marlene are the proud parents of three girls, all under age two. They are a welcome handful, with Gillman having a newfound appreciation for all things pink, full of sparkle and aligned with princesses.

While 10- month- old Katherine is just mastering things like crawling and using furniture to stand against for support, her older twin sisters Helen and Elizabeth - who will turn two next month - are running around and starting to put simple words into sentences.

The twins’ growth and development is miraculous to the Gillmans, considering Helen and Elizabeth were born at 25 weeks weighing only 1 lb. 14 oz. and 1 lb. 11 oz., respectively.

Through all the challenges the family faced during the months the girls were hospitalized at the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, a local organization helped make their hospital experience more bearable.

The Goshen-based Hailey’s Hope Foundation, established in December 2007, consists of parents and grandparents who lived through NICU experiences and the loss of a baby.

Tomorrow, Sept. 8, the group will hold its fourth annual fund raiser at the Harness Racing Museum in Goshen at 7 p.m. to benefit families with premature and critically ill babies hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

On Oct.1, the group will also hold its inaugural golf tournament at The Golf Club at Purchase in Westchester County.

Hailey Zion

The organization was named after of Hailey Zion, who was born prematurely on Jan. 3, 2003, at 21 weeks and weighing only 12 ounces. She passed away shortly after her birth. The foundation was created at the fifth anniversary of her death by friends and family who were working secretly on a project to create a foundation to remember Hailey, pay tribute to eight “NICU graduates” of its board members and help others who have to live through similar experiences.

The group is currently partnered with the children’s hospital in Westchester, which offers the seven county area’s only level IV NICU and which annually treats approximately 750 premature and critically ill babies. Officials said the foundation is working to expand its programs to reach more families in other local NICUs.

“We were looking forward to having kids finally and when we heard we were having twins, we were happy but we knew there were complications that came with it,” said Gillman. “Unfortunately nature has its way. My wife had uncontrollable bleeding and they couldn’t stop it. I was scared. They wheeled her away and left me in the room with blood all over the place.”

Elizabeth spent three months in the hospital and Helen needed to spend an additional month as a patient before she was discharged.

“The doctors and nurses were great, and we certainly lived through it,” said Gillman, who works in the information technology field. “The commute was hard, it was a long commute almost on a daily basis. We made a routine out of it.”

‘The little things that add up’

Gillman telecommuted to work from the hospital. His wife would bring pumped breast milk daily. Together, they met with doctors, nurses and ancillary staff to learn about each baby’s daily challenges and successes.

“Our life changed and we had to be in the hospital so much,” Gillman said. “We did get some time off but after a certain amount of time you run out of days. “

One of the unit’s nurses told the couple about Hailey’s Hope Foundation and suggested they contact the organization to see if it might be able to assist them.

“We took them up on almost everyting,” said Gillman. “They were very receptive. They helped us with the little things that add up, like vouchers for parking, vouchers for the cafeteria. They even offered to provide stay in a hotel but we opted to commute. It’s just one less thing to worry about. These little things really helped as I dealt with doctors, nurses and social workers.”

Flash forward to almost two years later, and Gillman speaks of how his girls are getting into everything and doing everything they should for their age.

“They’re running, dumping things down the stairs,” he said, adding they have completed some physical therapy and are now getting some speech therapy services. “The girls are great, thank God, no issues. I love every minute of it.”

And he’s very grateful to Hailey’s Hope Foundation for being there when the family needed help.

“They gave us one less thing to worry about,” Gillman added. “For families who go through this, it’s a stressful time. Any thing, any little thing at that time counts. Anything you can take off your plate is helpful.”

By Nancy Kriz




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