BETHANY — Inside a hospital room with the hum of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” paired with the sounds of beeping medical equipment playing in the background, a college student rocked a baby whose parents she had never met.
Kallie Mikles cradled 7-month-old Brooklyn Schulze in a wooden rocking chair. Mikles, a marketing student at the University of Central Oklahoma, was careful to avoid pulling out tubing and wires that feed Brooklyn, monitor her every breath and keep her alive. Mikles, 21, has no connection to Brooklyn outside the walls of The Children’s Center, a private non-profit pediatric hospital serving children with complex medical needs and physical disabilities.
But she’s no stranger to the child one nurse called the “miracle baby.” Mikles spent an hour holding Brooklyn last week, watching her fall asleep while she grasped on to her fingers. It has built a deep emotional connection between the two she said is hard to explain.
“It’s one-on-one time with this little innocent baby who could do nothing wrong,” Mikles said. “I just look at her and she smiles, and has these big eyes looking back up at you. It’s very peaceful.”
Mikles is one of about 100 volunteers, ages 17 to 88, at the center. Among many of their duties is spending an hour each week rocking an infant in need of physical interaction. There are a number of volunteer programs similar to this in hospitals across the state. What makes Mikles’ service unique is the setting and newborns served.
Brooklyn is at the center because she was born with a rare genetic disorder called Digeorge Syndrome. She has calcium and immune deficiencies, and a vascular ring — her aorta heart valve is wrapped around her trachea and esophagus, leaving her unable to swallow or eat by mouth and making breathing on her own difficult.
Her parents, Lindsay and Michael Schulze, live in Durant. Michael works 12-hour shifts Monday through Friday at a distributing company, so the couple is only able to visit their daughter on weekends.
The pain of not knowing whether their newborn will live a normal and healthy life, paired with the physical separation of a three-hour road trip, is lifted slightly by knowing someone can provide Brooklyn a caring touch when they cannot.
“Oh my goodness, I remember crying tears of joy,” Lindsay Schulze said. “I could not believe that they had volunteers come in like that. I can’t even put it into words. You can imagine how comforting that is for a mother who sometimes wants to get mad at herself because she can’t be two places at once.”
Schulze was 33 weeks pregnant July 8 when she noticed Brooklyn had stopped her normal kicking and moving inside her. An ultrasound at an area women’s center in Durant revealed an emergency C-section was necessary, and Brooklyn was born the following day.
Brooklyn spent two months at Baylor Medical Center in Texas before being transferred to The Children’s Center, where she spends four days a week in the care of Amy Kluge, an advanced practice registered nurse. Kluge said the science and medicine that keep Brooklyn thriving is vital but nothing compares to the importance of the physical touch of simply holding and rocking.
“It directly affects brain growth,” Kluge said. “Whether its volunteers or the nursing staff, someone is always holding, rocking or playing with a child. That, more than anything else that we do here, is the No. 1 thing that helps them progress toward their goals.”
Brooklyn is scheduled to have surgery to repair her vascular ring Thursday. It has been pushed back three times already because of Brooklyn’s poor immune system, but family and doctors are hopeful that if everything goes as planned, Brooklyn can begin eating and breathing on her own with continued treatment.
Mikles said she doesn’t think about Brooklyn’s future while they rock together. It’s her job to focus on Brooklyn’s comfort today. But as she smiled down at the blue-eyed baby with the pink and white bow atop her head, she anticipated the future would be bright.
“I hope that everything works out for the absolute best,” Mikles said. “I hope she’s a perfect little angel, like she is now.”
Schulze set up a Facebook page, “Prayers for Baby Brooklyn,” and has been floored by the response. People she’s never met have sent her donations, converted to gas money for trips to see her daughter. Thinking of the upcoming surgery brings Schulze to tears, but she is confident Brooklyn will continue to surprise.
“She’s going to make it through, I know it,” Schulze said. “She’s our little miracle. She’s a fighter. And I can’t wait to one day tell her the story of how many people have been so kindhearted through all of this.”
How to help
Interested in volunteering at The Children’s Center? Go to www.tccokc.org/careers/volunteer/
I just look at (Brooklyn) and she smiles, and has these big eyes looking back up at you. It’s very peaceful.”