It is the most pain an expectant parent could go through. Dr. Mandy Sorlie and Lisa Jackson are working to lighten the burden.
“Several years ago there was a time in my career where I had three families that I was caring for lose second-trimester pregnancies kind of in a short amount of time,” said Sorlie, a family medicine doctor at Sanford Health Clinic. “As we do in health care, I was just kind of expressing at home how sad and upset I was by this.
"I can say ‘I am sorry’ to these families and it just felt empty and I wished there was something more that we could do for it.”
After some brainstorming, Sorlie and her husband, Dave, came up with an idea.
“I told (Dave) how the local funeral homes didn’t charge for cremation or would donate the casket for the baby and how I thought that was a very caring and kind thing to do," she said. "He kind of brought up the idea of some way we could help offset the medical cost they receive.”
With the idea in mind, Sorlie approached Jackson, the current Jamestown Regional Medical Center Foundation director. Sorlie proposed the elimination of any medical bills related to unavoidable and unexpected ends of a pregnancy.
“It just felt like it was one little thing that is maybe one less thing to worry about,” Sorlie said of the reasoning behind the program. “My husband and I are very blessed with three beautiful, healthy children and neither of us can possibly imagine that type of pain.”
With Jackson’s help, the Dave and Dr. Mandy Sorlie Family Advocating for Neonatal Grief and Early Loss Support (ANGELS) fund was established in August 2015. So far the program has been utilized by 12 families who have experienced the loss of a child unexpectedly.
“I think it is important because it acknowledges that was a life,” Sorlie said. “That baby they lost was a life and a member of their family. I hope it helps ease a burden on these families and allows them to mourn and not worry about the financial situation.”
Jackson said that as long as ANGELS program funds are available there are no restrictions imposed upon the families grieving the loss of a child. No bill is sent to the families; instead, a letter explaining the ANGELS fund program and assuring patients of financial coverage for medical needs is delivered.
“A patient grant is available to anyone who experiences loss at JRMC with a gestation of greater than 16 weeks up to four months after the baby has been born … due to unavoidable circumstances,” Jackson said. “We want (the funds) to cover basically 100 percent of their bill at Jamestown Regional Medical Center.”
Jackson said Sorlie is one of the leading family medicine providers in the Jamestown area who is dedicated to her patients' and their families’ health. Jackson, who had a personal doctor-patient relationship with Sorlie, spoke of the doctor’s devotion and desire to see changes made to a difficult situation.
“I was extremely grateful that as a provider in our community who offers so much of her time and dedication as well as her compassion to patients would be willing to facilitate support for families in one of their greatest times of need,” Jackson said.
While Sorlie and Jackson are coming up on the five-year anniversary of the ANGELS program and the two plan on having the system in place for the foreseeable future, there is still necessary work to be done to ensure lasting support for families in need.
Sorlie said anyone interested in making a donation to the fund can do that through the JRMC Foundation. The fund's annual golf fundraiser is held at the Jamestown Country Club. The fifth-year event will be held on Aug. 1.
"The first year I think we raised somewhere around 5,000 dollars but we have raised up to 13,000 dollars for the fund so that's wonderful," Sorlie said. "It's not just us -- this is community contributions. It's quite impressive how many people have also contributed, it's just really amazing."