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Hospital 'Grandparents' Volunteer To Cuddle Newborns

11:26 AM, Mar 9, 2011   |    comments
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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WSBT) -- To grandparents, there is nothing greater than holding a new grandbaby. Bob and Herta Johnston get to experience that joy every week.

They are grandma and grandpa to all the babies at the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center nursery. The Johnstons have volunteered as "cuddlers" for more than 8 years. Herta said they like it when the nursery is full, but as long as they each have one baby to hold, they are happy.

The Johnstons, who are in their 80s, said they have always loved babies. They had plenty of experience at home. They had 24 babies: 3 of their own and 21 foster babies.

Now they get their baby fix, without the sleepless nights. When they volunteer, they do whatever they can to help the nurses.

"Don't mind cuddling, don't mind feeding, but don't really look forward to changing diapers," said Bob, with a laugh.

Rocking is what the Johnstons do best.

"You just cuddle them and sometimes when they have a stomachache you hold them over your shoulder. They like that," explained Herta.

"It's a good feeling when you get them all calmed down," added Bob.

The nurses look forward to the Johnstons coming to the hospital every Tuesday morning.

"They do a wonderful job with the babies," said Kay Merrill, a nurse in the newborn nursery. "You can see the glimmer in Bob's eyes when he holds babies. You can just see it," she said.

The new parents who have had a long night appreciate the cuddlers too.

"I think it's great," said Kevin Miller, a new dad. "A lot of times all a baby needs is somebody there to hold them and feel loved."

"They can leave them in here, and we can spoil them," said Herta.

Rocked in Bob and Herta's arms, the newborns are calm and content. The cuddling time is good for the Johnston's mood too.

"It makes you feel good, gives you a good warm feeling that you're doing something useful in life," said Bob, as he rocked another baby to sleep.

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