PreemieWorld: How long have you been working in your field?
Yamile: 19 years
PreemieWorld: Why did you choose your current profession?
Yamile: I graduated with my PhD in ergonomics and safety engineering and then my son was born 12 weeks prematurely. My agony was leaving him every night, and finding ways to show him that I loved him. Zachary survived the blackout caused by a flood 3-weeks after he was born and he was still in the NICU during the attacks of September 11th (and this year, he graduates from high school during the pandemic).
I made a promise to Zachary that his pain and struggle to survive were not in vain and I would dedicate my life to give him the best life possible and to others on his behalf. I made The Zaky for him out of a stuffed garden glove. Then a nurse asked me to make them for the rest of the unit. We spent 3 years redesigning the garden glove to virtually replace all developmental care devices: positioners, bonding aids, soothing aids, swaddlers, containment devices, etc.
I designed The Zaky ZAK to provide safety to the baby, improve duration and frequency of kangaroo care sessions by providing easy access and easy transfers. In addition, to have it as the backup to the incubators in the event of a blackout, and allow parents to take a supervised nap in the NICU with their preemies. I slept with Zach during kangaroo care and I wanted everyone to experience that moment with their own babies.
For Kangaroo Care Day we are deploying a mobile app that was partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and will keep track of time spent in kangaroo care and has an educational component for parents.
PreemieWorld: What do you want other professionals to know about what you do?
Yamile: Nurtured by Design is the only company that applies ergonomics and safety engineering, maternal instinct, and a heavy dosage of positive parental intervention to improve the science, safety, and healthcare outcomes; reduce cost, and improve satisfaction of the babies, families, and staff.
PreemieWorld: What advice do you give to preemie parents?
Yamile: Babies need to feel loved to thrive. Connect with your baby 24/7 by touch, voice, scent. Be involved. Advocate for your preemie, and be grateful for the work the NICU staff is doing to save your baby.
PreemieWorld: Fun Facts: Tell us a fun or quirky fact about you.
Yamile: Two fun facts:
- In 2011 I founded the International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day and selected May 15th because it is Zachary’s birthday. It is now celebrated globally. www.kangaroo.care
- Oprah Winfrey had her arm around me for 6 minutes in front of 16K people at the Toyota Center in Houston while we watched the video she made about our story (video in our homepage www.thezaky.com)
PreemieWorld: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Yamile: The Zaky is a system for around the clock evidence-based care: The Zaky HUG is an extension of the parents’ hands and is the only evidence-based neuroprotective, family centered care device used while the baby is on the bed or in the incubator, and The Zaky ZAK is used when the baby is being held (skin-to skin-contact or clothed). Here is the science: https://thezaky.com/pages/the-science-behind-the-zaky