Free service monitors heart rates of babies

September 21, 2009 12:53:59 PM PDT
A Bay Area mom whose son was stillborn has been inspired to help other women by lending them a device to help monitor their baby's heart rate in the womb. Her free service has grown over the past two years and she's now single-handedly helped almost three dozen women nationwide.

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"I lost my son at 27 weeks, he was stillborn," said Tiny Heartbeats founder Dana Kern.

Baby Ethan died in utero at 7-months; shortly after that fateful day in June 2007, grieving mom Dana Kern of Belmont was inspired to help other pregnant women avoid what she experienced.

"I kept wishing I had a fetal doppler, because I didn't feel him moving, and after I lost him, I started looking into the dopplers," said Kern.

And that's when Tiny Heartbeats was born.

Dana started this nonprofit organization on her own to lend fetal doppler devices to women. They're expensive to buy, even rent and she wanted to help others with high-risk pregnancies. These dopplers help monitor the baby's heart rate from home in addition to routine doctor's visits.

Dana used a home doppler to listen to her now 13-month old son Eli's heartbeat. And she's using it again for her daughter, who is five months now in the tummy. But the joy of Tiny Heartbeats goes beyond the Kern house.

New San Jose mom Kristina heaps is one of 30 women around the country so far who've borrowed a doppler for free, after getting the required doctor's prescription.

"They were like if it'll give you any kind of peace of mind -- use it," said San Jose mom Kristina Heaps.

Fiona was born in July, two months premature, but healthy and the doppler was music to her parents' ears.

"We just listened for about five minutes and then we'd go: 'Ok, everything's fine. There's a heartbeat, you can hear her move,'" said Heaps.

A critical relief after her first baby girl died at 36-weeks when the cord wrapped around the neck -- it was gut-wrenching to break the news to her husband.

"We had to call him when we found out that she had died and making that phone call was just heartbreaking, I couldn't even do it. I just like I handed the phone to my midwife -- I'm all 'I can't talk to him'-- so I didn't want to do that again," said Heaps.

The ultimate goal is for no woman to experience such a loss again and now Tiny Heartbeats' doppler program is growing as word-of-mouth spreads.

"Thank you for providing such a wonderful service. It helped reassure us when we needed it the most," said Heaps.

Dana has a doppler waiting list of 30 and wants to raise funds to buy and lend more. It's a pricey device. up to $500 each -- but the peace of mind and babies born are priceless.

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